June 12, 2023

Concerning the Greek Priest Who Was Suspended for Having Two Girls as "Altar Servers"

He became a priest that receives no salary at the age of 66, he reads the Gospel in the demotic translation, captivating his flock, while he taught the word of God for 37 years in the classrooms: from the Night School of Exarcheia to the Theological School of Sydney in Australia.

Since last week, thousands of believers see him as a victim of a religious fundamentalism that is being attempted by dark forces within the Church. Priest Alexandros Kariotoglou, vicar at the historic Church of Saint Nicholas Ragavas in Plaka, is the man who has received an unprecedented wave of support after the decision to put him on a temporary suspension because he made two 13-year-old girls "papadakia"* on Pentecost Sunday.

His move caused the reaction of conservative circles, while under these pressures the Archdiocese of Athens informed him that he cannot officiate until the case is discussed in the Permanent Holy Synod. Believers, professors of Theology, people who are well aware of his work inside and outside the Church blasted the decision, pointing out that Father Alexandros is an enlightened priest, a progressive voice who strengthens the Christian faith with his work. Among those who took a position on the matter was Father Libyos and Professor Nektaria Karantzi, whose posts on social media are translated below.

Father Alexandros Kariotoglou, who has had a rich education, is a doctor of the Theological School of the University of Athens and author of books, has proven for years that he does not exclude anyone from the family of Orthodoxy. As he pointed out in an earlier interview with "NEA": 
"At the 52nd School of Kolonos, where I served, there were many foreign students and I had learned 'good morning' in all languages. After the prayer I said it in English, Romanian, Arabic and the children were happy. I told them that I completely respect everyone's faith. I had two students from Syria who wore headscarves. In the 1st Lyceum, I always did a lesson in which the children brought yeast, salt, water and we kneaded the dough. They would take it to their homes, bake it and we would take it to the church to serve it. Then I asked the two girls: 'Would you like to join? We are making the Body of Christ.' 'Yes, sir,' they replied. And they also came to church. As soon as you respect the other person, he will respect you too."
Speaking to "MEGA", Father Alexandros Kariotoglou says that he is waiting for the decision of the Holy Synod, which has temporarily put him on suspension, while he emphasizes: "I will convey to you what was decided by the meeting of the church council without me. Coincidentally, it took place on Sunday at the Church of Saint Nicholas Ragavas and emerged as an important event with multiple contradictions. The people's contradictions reveal that there is a flock looking for a shepherd. They prove that the flock is not only the circles of those who are crooked and worshipers of formalism. They reveal that society loves the church and wishes to be connected with the church."

Father Alexandros declares that he respects the decisions of the Archbishop, adding: "I do not judge them in any way. There is always a price in spiritual life both when you do good and when you do bad. I glorify God for everything. I have nothing to say, but I am waiting for the decision of the Synod."

"The two girls felt really good about it all. The children are triplets, two girls and a boy. And they saw their brother doing it all the time and I said let's dress them up too. The boy dressed in the sanctuary and the girls did not. And they were very happy. The father also came and they told me that they were very saddened by what has now happened," said the priest speaking to "Mega".

Father Alexandros was also asked about the baptism of the child of a same-sex couple that he had done in the past, explaining that “one of the two boys was gay and he was my spiritual child. They took in his little nephew from his sister and instead of giving him to an institution because his sister was a drug addict, they adopted him, they were very happy and asked me to baptize him. And it was the baptism that scandalized someone. They accused me of condoning gay marriage. I didn't say anything like that, I just respected the persons. This is what one cannot understand. How much we should respect persons and not just if some canons are being carried out, etc."

* It should be noted that in Greek, the world for altar boy or altar server is "papadaki" or "papadakia" for plural. This name denotes that they are small versions of the priest by the way they dress in vestments, but it is not an ordained ministry in the Church. In some parishes in Greece with papadakia, neither the male or female enters the altar, but waits outside the royal doors of the iconostasis to lead the priest emerging from the sanctuary in processions. In the case of Father Alexandros, the two girls never entered the sanctuary.

By Nektaria Karantzi,
Professor of Byzantine Music

Christian fundamentalist. The great funnel that freely accommodates the half-educated and uneducated, unread and ignorant, people who exhaust faith in prostrations and patristic citations. Manipulated people who are happy with that manipulation themselves. People who deny joy, deny love, live cramped, breathless and certainly talk about sacred canons that they don't even know about which ones they are, where they are, what they mean, who interprets them authentically and who doesn't.

These are people who don't know what a "papadaki" means, or, to go on another related topic, people who don't know what the lower clergy are, which also includes the chanters, and how it contrasts with the higher. They are people who only care when they enter the church not to turn their backs on the Sanctuary, but have no problem if they turn their backs on Christ with their lives. Deeply complex people, who started in one place and ended up elsewhere, today they undertake to "crucify" Fr. Alexandros Kariotoglou for the girls who served as papadakia, the most beautiful image, after that of female chanters, that I have seen in the church.

And they will bring back the canons they don't know, their elder and what Kolokotronis and Makriyannis told them or didn't tell them (for the national phronema).

Our gulf with this Christianity is ever deepening. But I will not tell you today about the papadakia and whether they are allowed to be girls or boys, because fortunately the theologians were appointed. I will talk about how much I heard when I started chanting, even if it was done with the prompting, the permission, the blessing of Saint Porphyrios (because as we know their Saints are respected only if they serve their fundamentalism). The first time I felt what Christian fundamentalism means was when I was 10 years old and after the prompting of my teacher, Dimitris Verikios, I went up to the analogion of his church. Until then I was in a protected environment near Elder Porphyrios. There I did not know what Christian fundamentalism means.

At the analogion of that city, at the analogion of my teacher, a old man with a cane (I remember it as if it was right now), a parishioner for years, seeing the image of a 10 year old girl at the chanter's stand was "scandalized" (what a verb that is! how many complexes it suppresses... for years now). He came towards me with force, grabs my hand and, during the service, pulled me under the analogion, shouting that women are not allowed to be at the chanter's stand. Why? Because this is what he knew, this is what he was told, this is what he read somewhere, somehow, once, without knowing anything about the interpretation of sacred canons, nothing about the spirit of Christ. Because he was brought up to think of women as impure so as not to be "scandalized". 10 year old girls and scandal. When these two concepts sit side by side, something is wrong... Something is not right at all. For the record, my teacher certainly defended me, without losing the kindness that always distinguishes him. Because that's how the Christians on the other side are. They are never equals.

A key distinguishing characteristic of Christian fundamentalists is rudeness. And, believe me, I have experienced it all too well all these years in chanting, personally, both directly and indirectly, as well as after the founding of the Panhellenic Association of Chanters in 2013. I had been prepared and warned about it for years, so nothing now surprises me. However, I still observe these "Christian" people that yell without having a reason, without being able to articulate a sentence with simple elementary syntax, with Subject, Verb and Object. I observe their cunning mind to christen their native rudeness as simplicity, their ignorance as goodness, their desire to subjugate as obedience, their obscurity as protection of tradition and that which is sacred and venerable, their inadequacy and their negligence to study, to deepen in spirit, to open in thought, as humility. All wrong. All these definitions are wrong. And when we forget the definitions, the concepts go for a walk.

And the empty containers are left to make a fuss.

There is one good thing about the referral of the issue to the Synod: that perhaps the time has come to prove that our hierarchs are not led and carried by herds and can rightly distinguish the word of truth. Only this.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.   

By Fr. Libyos,
Parish Priest and Author

When a priest who receives no salary, who has dedicated his whole life to the Church and theology, is threatened with a suspension and brutally beaten by gangs of religious fundamentalists because he let two little girls hold the candle at the Divine Liturgy, then something is definitely not right in the Church.

But why don't we like the truth? Didn't Christ ask us to be honest and true? Why don't all those who were bothered by the little girls holding the candle in the Divine Liturgy be clear say that they have a problem with women?

Yes, women is their problem and not the observance of the canons of the Church, which they selectively use when and where they want. I would really like to measure one of them against the canons of the Holy Fathers and even the strictest ones to see how many of them would be allowed to enter the church.

Their problem is women, because they consider her to be impure, dirty and inferior to men. This is the whole truth. All the talk about canons is a nice alibi for their misogyny and psychopathology.

Every woman is a member and part of the Risen Body of Christ. Christ has already included her in His eschatological glory, which we experience in every Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy is an image of the Kingdom of God, where we are all united with God the Father and Christ through the Holy Spirit, without any separation or division.

How is it possible to divide people within the Divine Liturgy? Any separation within the Eucharist is a huge sin that changes the iconography of the Kingdom into a hell of history.

No canon forbids a woman to hold the candle for the priest when he reads the Gospel, during the Small or Great Entrance, to chant at the chanter's stand and to help in general with the work of parish life. After all, the institution of Deaconess was never abolished, it may have weakened for social and cultural reasons, but it was not abolished. And it was not a laying on of hands but an ordination.

Besides, in monasteries and churches in the countryside, in the villages where we minister, and even when the flock is small, women and little girls play a huge role and work in the life of our parish.

*** To these little girls who have received and experienced all these "Christian" attacks of "love" and "respect", all this religious violence, who will explain that Christ and the Church of His Saints have no problem with them being born women?

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.  

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