April 1, 2011 – Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) calls on the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos II, as well as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to condemn unequivocally the blatant anti-Macedonian statements of Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki, one of the church’s highest officials.
“This rhetoric is unacceptable, counter-productive and injurious to the image of Greece and the Greek Orthodox Church. Instead of promoting Christian values of peace, tolerance and togetherness, Metropolitan Anthimos uses his position to speak in front of the Greek nation to incite hatred,” said UMD President Metodija A. Koloski.
The accusations made by Metropolitan Anthimos during a recent liturgy were false and vile. In the Metropolitan’s address, which was broadcast on national TV, he accused Macedonia of spreading “propaganda,” called the Macedonian language an “idiom” and stated that Macedonia was “a little state that had been invented recently.”
The Metropolitan’s incendiary accusation regarding the so-called “propaganda” is rooted in the innocuous fact that Macedonia’s recently built Holocaust museum displays a map in which the country is labeled by its own constitutional name, “Macedonia,” as opposed to the term that some – particularly in Greece – use pejoratively (i.e., “Skopia”). Through this statement, Metropolitan Anthimos made obvious his political views regarding the Greece-Macedonia name dispute, though his speech was supposedly meant to be of a religious nature.
“We expect the Greek government, which provides part of the salary for church officials, to finally denounce the persistently invective rhetoric of Metropolitan Anthimos,” Koloski added.
In the speech, the Metropolitan also talked about a recently leaked embassy cable in which former Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos told former US Ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard that “Macedonians should be allowed to use whatever name they wish.” Anthimos argued that “no person in Greece believes in those words- not even Theodoros Pangalos himself”.
Members of the Greek Orthodox Church have a well-known track record of outrageous anti-Macedonian statements. A particularly galling example is the following from Metropolitan Anthimos: “Macedonians as an ethnic group do not exist” and “Macedonia is Greek . . . and parts of it that are missing should be returned.” A church leader calling for the expropriation of a portion of a sovereign country’s territory is beyond outrageous.
This bigotry and irredentism from church officials reflects the prevalent rhetoric in Greece. It is especially problematic since the Greek Orthodox Church is the official state religion of Greece.
The United Nations and the Helsinki Committee on Human Rights, as well as many other notable human rights organizations, have shown considerable concern over Greece’s mistreatment of its minority populations, including Greece’s unwillingness to even recognize the existence (much less accept the right to self-determination) of the hundreds of thousands of Greek citizens who have an ethnic Macedonian identity.