The Social Networks & Ministries of the Church of Greece

Greek Dancers celebrating the 100th anniversary of their Parish Church

One Saturday seven years ago I talked to a Greek Orthodox priest, Father Alexander Veronis, of Annunciation Orthodox Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who gave me a list of websites to further explore the role the Orthodox Church in Greece assumes in the lives of persons with disabilities. I found that there were websites which were partially translated into English, with the parts relating to such ministry untranslated. Then I found a report which explains the Church of Greece’ reluctance to publish the Church’s good works:

As Jesus said, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret may reward you.” (St. Matthew 6:3-4)

An illuminating Greek report, entitled “Welfare, Church, and Gender in Greece,” by Effie Fokas & Lina Molokotos Liederman (this report is no longer available online), is quoted below. The bibliographic reference of one of it’s sources is  

“Ekklesia tis Ellados [Church of Greece] 2001 Martyria tis Agapis. To Filantrhopiko kai Koinoniko Ergo tis Ekklesias tis Ellados [Witness of Love. The Philanthropic and Social Work of the Church of Greece]. Athens: Dept. of Publications of the Church of Greece.)

Here are some excerpts from this 51 page report by Fokas and Liederman:

Beyond state benefits and the informal but important care provided by the family, social needs that are not fully satisfied by the family or the state are usually filled by private or voluntary sectors (international organisations with Greek branches, such as the Red Cross, SOS Children’s Villages, etc.) and the Church. Therefore, the Greek case is a good example of the Southern European welfare model, with a classic underdeveloped state welfare sector coupled with the important role played by the family and women in providing essential social care. In this bi-polar model, the Orthodox Church is a third source, offering a wide array of social services, including the provision of support services for women and the family (see part II). The Greek example is schematically described as a triangular welfare model (state-family/women-church), in which the family and women seem to act both as providers and receivers of social care. (P. 298) 
…. Finally, there are a variety of state financed programmes for persons with disabilities (such as disability benefits and boarding houses for semi-independent living and full-time living for disabled persons, as well as, activity centres and summer camps for persons with disabilities) and other vulnerable groups (refugees and asylum seekers and Greek Roma communities) in collaboration with NGOs.” (P. 301)
…. Before highlighting the Greek Church’s actual social work, it is important to note a tendency for it to not publicly promote its welfare work, primarily because it takes place at the level of local interaction between the parish priest and individuals. Furthermore, the Church considers publicizing its social work to be contrary to the principles of philanthropy and the Orthodox ethos. Therefore, the Church’s organisations and monasteries involved in social activities also tend usually to act locally and informally and, thus, to avoid any type of public visibility of their social work, seemingly being more interested in offering social services rather than receiving public recognition for their work; in this way, they also tend to have an inward focus and operate in a closed network with minimal cooperation with other non-religious organisations involved in similar activities. (P. 318) .
…. The Church’s social services are put into action by local parish priests and other religious and non-religious staff (paid and unpaid laymen and laywomen), working for the Church in various capacities. Moreover, the Church benefits from a large network of volunteers it has created; according to 2001 statistics, the Church has an active network of approximately 23,000 people who are utilized and mobilized on a regular basis, offering their services to the great variety of social services provided by the Church … including … “Christian Solidarity“: charitable funds established by the Archdiocese of Athens and other metropolises; they provide locally, at the parish level, material and other types of support to a variety of individuals (elderly, single mothers, people with special needs, etc), suffering from poverty and financial and social exclusion, such as shelter and food (“soup kitchens”/sisitia), scholarships, child and elderly care, blood donations, etc. In 2003, there were 1,839 such funds. … People with special needs: assistance to individuals with special needs (for example, the blind) including medical care, financial assistance, psychological counselling, institutional care, training and professional occupation and leisure, as part of a wider effort to improve their insertion and integration into Greek society. Some local metropolises, which are active in this area, employ a large number of individuals with special needs (such as in the painting of icons, in gardening, in cooking and kitchens, etc). (Pp. 319-322)
Picture from Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral Parish Celebrates 100- Year Anniversary

1 Response to “The Social Networks & Ministries of the Church of Greece”

  1. 1 Aldeas Infantiles | Worldless Trackback on March 6, 2015 at 5:42 AM

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