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Letter to WCC general secretary from Hieronymos, Archbishop of Athens, addressing the refugee crisis

Greece’s people are exhausted from years of economic crisis and the Orthodox church head there is pleading with the European Union to reconsider its decision to limit the refugees it is accepting.Archbishop Hieronymos wrote his impassioned letter for help to the general secretary of the WCC, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, appealing to international churches and the global community.

31 March 2016

(Translation from Greek)

Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit
General secretary of the WCC



With a deep sense of responsibility and with great pain of heart, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece follows the endless tribulations of the refugees flooding our small country. In their long and difficult journey from war to peace, hundreds of thousands of suffering refugees cross, under dramatic circumstances, our country, distressed and drained as a result of the economic crisis.

Aware of the gravity of the situation, our Holy Synod makes an appeal to you, so that people of the international community with institutional authority, good will, respected voice and social influence, will join forces to solve the greatest problem and wave of refugees on European soil since World War II.

Armed confrontations, civil hostilities, economic interests, poverty and growing injustice in the broader Mediterranean area continue to push millions of fellow human beings to an uncertain and dangerous journey which, very often, has a tragic end. Our seas have become liquid graves. Our islands and our people stand with moving altruism on the side of the desperate.

The Church of Greece, deeply saddened by the hecatomb of victims produced by the war and the need to seek refuge, pray for the souls of the innocent victims, for the healing of the painful consequences of armed conflicts, and for the restoration of peace in the whole world.

We therefore call you to deploy, according to your institutional authority, all possible efforts so that the civil war (“brother-killing war”) in the broader area of Syria comes to an end, that people and families are no more uprooted from their ancestral homeland, and that those who are already living as refugees be assisted to overcome their pains.

Through its diaconal organizations and its institutional structures, the Church of Greece continues to offer support, contributing to the relief of the afflicted refugees.  This is what we have been doing as a church throughout our bi-millennial history, this is what we are doing today and this is what we will continue to do in the future, to the extent our limited resources and the big generous heart of our people allow us to do.

However, we share the view of the Hellenic government, and believe that our small country, exhausted from the years-long economic crisis, is not in a position to confront alone this major refugee issue. For this reason, substantial interventions are imperatively needed. We consider that the manifestation of European solidarity, first of all through the re-examination of the decision to close the borders, but also through substantial efforts to eliminate the root causes of the refugee crisis, should be undertaken.


In the context of the present crisis there is a frequent reference to a budgetary/financial crisis. It would be very sad that we experience together something worse and something nobody would desire, namely the bankruptcy of the fundamental values of the European spirit and the principles that build the European Union. Despite the diaconal support of the Church of Greece, the Hellenic government does not have the power to handle this crucial matter alone. We believe that solutions do exist and that it is our sacred duty to act responsibly.

Our church has the responsibility of carrying and amplifying the voice of those who ask our assistance, of condemning any attempt to demean and degrade the sacred character of the human person, of stating our pain for everything that torments human beings, of serving and assisting every fellow human with all our strength and our might.

Within the broader community of European churches, to all those that remain faithful to the principles of the founders of the European journey, our discourse would constitute a hopeful sign of cooperation and reconciliation, an appeal to unity and wisdom, a declaration of peace and fraternity.  Under the present unfavourable circumstances, to assist and complement one another would be the absolute priority. It is imperative that peace reigns, wisdom prevails, European solidarity is achieved and cooperation of all parties is secured.

We trust that, with your acute sense of discernment, you will recognize the weight of what we have exposed here. We are therefore looking forward to your receptiveness and substantial intervention. With such a good hope, we thank you in advance and wish you God’s help in the exercise of your important duties and remain with deep esteem and great honour.


Hieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece