Damaskinos of Athens
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|Archbishop of Athens|
Archbishop Damaskinos, 1945
|Birth name||Dimitrios Papandreou|
|Born||3 March 1891|
|Died||20 May 1949 (aged 58)|
Damaskinos of Athens
|Prime Minister of Greece|
17 October 1945 – 1 November 1945
|Preceded by||Petros Voulgaris|
|Succeeded by||Panagiotis Kanellopoulos|
|Regent of Greece|
Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou (3 March 1891 – 20 May 1949) was the archbishop of Athens and All Greece from 1941 until his death. He was also the regent of Greece between the pull-out of the German occupation force in 1944 and the return of King George II to Greece in 1946. His rule was between the liberation of Greece from the German occupation during World War II and the Greek Civil War.
He was born Dimitrios Papandreou (no relation to the Papandreou political family from Achaea) in Dorvitsa, Greece. He enlisted in the Greek army during the Balkan Wars. He was ordained a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1917. In 1922, he was made Bishop of Corinth. He spent the early 1930s as an ambassador of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the United States, where he labored to help organize the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
In 1938 he was elected Archbishop of Athens, taking the name Damaskinos. Ioannis Metaxas, dictator of Greece at the time, objected to Damaskinos and forced the cancellation of his election, and the appointment of Metropolitan Chrysanthus to the post. After the 1941 German invasion of Greece and the fall of the Greek government, the Metropolitans who had elected Damaskinos seized the opportunity to eject Chrysanthus from the throne (with German agreement, as the latter had refused to be present at the oath-taking ceremony of the quisling Prime Minister Georgios Tsolakoglu), and Damaskinos was reinstalled.
The Archbishop of Athens was the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox people of Athens and All Greece, and Damaskinos worked very hard to live up to his position during those hard times. He frequently clashed with the German authorities and the quisling government. In 1943, the Germans began the persecution of the Jews of Greece, and their deportations to Nazi concentration camps. Damaskinos formally protested the actions of the occupational authorities.
According to the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, the appeal of Damaskinos and his fellow Greeks is unique as no document similar to the protest against the Nazis during World War II has come to light in any other European country.
The letter in part reads:
|“||The Greek Orthodox Church and the Academic World of Greek People Protest against the Persecution... The Greek people were... deeply grieved to learn that the German Occupation Authorities have already started to put into effect a program of gradual deportation of the Greek Jewish community... and that the first groups of deportees are already on their way to Poland...
According to the terms of the armistice, all Greek citizens, without distinction of race or religion, were to be treated equally by the Occupation Authorities. The Greek Jews have proven themselves... valuable contributors to the economic growth of the country [and] law-abiding citizens who fully understand their duties as Greeks. They have made sacrifices for the Greek country, and were always on the front lines of the struggle of the Greek nation to defend its inalienable historical rights...
In our national consciousness, all the children of Mother Greece are an inseparable unity: they are equal members of the national body irrespective of religion... Our holy religion does not recognize superior or inferior qualities based on race or religion, as it is stated: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek' and thus condemns any attempt to discriminate or create racial or religious differences. Our common fate both in days of glory and in periods of national misfortune forged inseparable bonds between all Greek citizens, without exemption, irrespective of race...
Today we are... deeply concerned with the fate of 60,000 of our fellow citizens who are Jews... we have lived together in both slavery and freedom, and we have come to appreciate their feelings, their brotherly attitude, their economic activity, and most important, their indefectible patriotism...
|“||According to the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, our prelates are hanged, not shot. Please respect our traditions!||”|
The Archbishop was being boldly sarcastic, as he was referring to the lynching and hanging of Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople by a Turkish mob in 1821, the point being made that the SS commander would act in a similarly barbaric fashion if he were to carry out his threat.
The churches under his jurisdiction were also ordered quietly by Damaskinos to distribute Christian baptismal certificates to Jews fleeing the Nazis, thus saving thousands of Romaniote Jews in and around Athens. For his actions in saving Greek Jews during the Holocaust, he was named among the Righteous Among the Nations distinction by Yad Vashem.
After the liberation
After the occupation ended, Damaskinos was proclaimed regent of Greece until a referendum to be held for the return or not of King George II from exile. During this time, fighting broke out between pro-royalist Greek soldiers and communist partisans (Dekemvriana events). He took control of the situation in his early term, appointing himself Prime Minister during late 1945. Though he wielded little power in his latter term, Damaskinos continued to call for peace and order in the country.
He relinquished his position after fighting began to die down and recalled the king formally on September 28, 1946. He died in Athens in 1949.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens.|
- The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation:Archbishop Damaskinos
- Damaskinos of Athens – his activity to save Jews' lives during the Holocaust, at Yad Vashem website
- Newspaper clippings about Damaskinos of Athens in the 20th Century Press Archives of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW)
|Eastern Orthodox Church titles|
| Archbishop of Athens and All Greece
| Prime Minister of Greece
October 17, 1945 – November 1, 1945