Monday 29 January 2024

High-ranking Christian prelate warns of spread of antisemitism by church officials

File: Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros leads a celebration of St. Nicholas Day, at the St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center in New York on December 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Speaking on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a high-ranking Christian official of the Orthodox Church warned Sunday against the spread of antisemitism by religious and church officials.

“I am worried by the spread of antisemitism internationally,” Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, spiritual leader of Greek Orthodox faithful in North and South America, told an audience in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city.

He added that he was particularly worried that “the ointment of the Church does not heal wounds, but spreads the fire” of antisemitism, though he didn’t give any specific examples.

“Evil has a name, an identity and a history, and it is called fascism and Nazism. … It has no relation to Christian theology despite the efforts of some to dress their far-right ideology with the cloak of Christianity,” Elpidophoros said.

The archbishop and a former city mayor, Yiannis Boutaris, were made honorary members of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, which now numbers only about 1,200.

Earlier in the day, Elpidophoros, city officials and the ambassadors of Israel and the United States commemorated the Holocaust at Eleftherias (Freedom) Square. That is where the city’s Jews were rounded up by Nazi German occupying troops in 1943 before being packed into trains and sent to concentration camps.

The vast majority went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and about 50,000 perished.