Thursday, April 1, 2021

Did Patriarch Athenagoras Serve as a Rabbi for Jews?


Many things have been written about the former Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and his ecumenist activities, some of which can be viewed as positive steps, but there are also things so cringeworthy awful that one can hardly believe they are true without seeing the evidence first. One of these things is the claim that he had once served as a Rabbi to Jews at the same time he was a Metropolitan for Orthodox Christians.

As evidence for this claim, we are told to look into the archives of the New York Times, specifically for the issue dated November 25, 1940. The title of the article is "GREEK JEWS HERE PRAY FOR VICTORY". I decided to look it up to see what I would find. After paying a subscription fee, here is the article:

So here we have a damning confession from Athenagoras himself, where he says: "In Corfu, where I once lived, I acted many times as rabbi for my Jewish friends."

In 1923 Athenagoras was still a young Deacon when he was elected to be the Metropolitan of Kerkyra (Corfu). He held this position until 1930, when he became Archbishop of North and South America. Therefore, according to the confession of Athenagoras himself, he served "many times" as a "rabbi" for his "Jewish friends" during this seven year period, while at the same time serving the Greek Orthodox faithful as Metropolitan of Kerkyra.

Ten years later, in 1940, when the Greek-Italian War began in Greece, Archbishop Athenagoras attended an event in a Jewish synagogue of New York City sponsored by Greek Jews of New York City on behalf of the war effort, and there he recalled fondly how he acted many times as a rabbi in Kerkyra for his Jewish friends.

Based on this information, we have to assume that it is true.

Though it is true, it is hardly surprising. Athenagoras is well-known as being an extremist as far as ecumenism is concerned, and many Orthodox faithful condemned him for it. After all, in a letter to Pope Paul VI in 1968, he not only praised the Pope for being greater than the Apostle Paul, but he also told him that he commemorated his name in every Divine Liturgy, since according to Athenagoras the Great Schism ended in 1965. 
Moreover, his own predecessor in Constantinople, Patriarch Maximos V, had said that not only did he see Athenagoras pray in mosques in both Constantinople and Jerusalem, but Athenagoras had also made a comment to him about his childhood in which he said: "In our village, we had in our paternal household two people, the priest and the dervish, the dervish Kamil. We would confess and tell our secrets to the dervish Kamil, because we had no trust in our priest." Therefore, as a child Athenagoras was raised to treat an Islamic dervish as his spiritual father above the Orthodox priest of his village. It's no wonder his ecumenism reached such extremes, extremes that would prove to be disastrously harmful for the unity of the Orthodox world.
Now I can cancel my subscription to the New York Times.