People of Greece pray for rain as their country and other parts of the world burn

Greeks have watched their country burn, knowing that the flames also consume many other parts of the world, says the Church of Greece.

Most of Greece’s people can’t remember such prolonged heat and fires that have inflicted them this year. They pray daily for cooler weather and rain, along with their church, says Dr Vasileios Meichanetsidis, who heads the Programmes and International Cooperation section for the Church of Greece.

“This is the hottest summer in many decades,” he said.

As the fires consume their country and neighbours, the people of Greece know they are not alone as flames lick over huge land masses in North America and the far north of Europe in Russia.

The Church of Greece, to which a huge majority of Greeks belong, said it is praying for fire victims. It provides emergency aid and calls for greater ecological awareness due to the ongoing climate crisis in the country and across the planet.

The Archbishop of Athens and Primate of the Church of Greece Hieronymos II and the bishops have urged unity, perseverance, and greater ecological awareness after the devastating forest fires across the country.

“The fires and heavy floods now spreading across the world are a reminder of how important is care for ecology,” said the Greek primate. “Humanity forgets that God has entrusted us with a duty of care for the environment and natural world. An effective response to climate change is one of humanity’s greatest challenges for the 21st century.”

Island of Evia spared

In Greece, while fires raged across the island of Evia for a week and many were forced to evacuate their homes, people said they had also experienced a miracle.

The flames which had been closing in turned away from St. David of Evia Monastery and the abbot and clergy there, attribute it to their prayers and their patron St David and St Iakovos of Evia, Orthodox Christianity reported.

New reports said, although the residents initially planned to escape the fires, they instead turned to the Lord in prayer and he answered, they said, diverting the fire.

The Church of Greece has instructed parishes throughout the country to show the Christian ethos, of love and solidarity by offering aid and shelter those in need.

Archbishop Hieronymos said media images of the fires “deeply shocked” him as they destroyed hundreds of houses, businesses, public institutions, and forests in Attica, on the island of Euboea, in the Peloponnese, and other areas across Greece.

The Church of Greece Synod appealed to the bishops in affected areas to make monasteries and parish centres places for needy families and persons, as thousands fled their homes before the raging flames.

The dioceses, monasteries, and church institutions in affected areas of the Archdiocese of Athens have provided water, food, bed linen, and made available board and longing facilities for those who may need them, as many houses have burnt down.

Emergency aid programmes

Several Greek Orthodox hierarchs have visited fire-damaged areas and set up emergency aid programmes.

Apostoli, the church’s major charity organization, and International Orthodox Christian Charities staff have provided necessities such as food, water, masks, prayers, and moral support. Apostoli also pledged help with reforestation.

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew sent sympathy messages to the church and Greek government and said he had also been in touch with bishops in affected areas. 

The Patriarchs of Romania Daniel and Serbia’s Porfirije sent solidarity messages to Hieronymos II.

Pledges of financial aid came from the Greek Orthodox diaspora and the Orthodox Church of Serbia.

Rev. Canon Leonard Doolan, the senior Anglican chaplain in Greece and Archepiscopal Apocrisiarius, said: “Greeks as a whole have responded extremely well to those in need. Since the vast majority are Orthodox, the predominant church will decide how best to support them. But we ourselves, even with very limited resources, are also ready to assist in any way we can.”

Meichanetsidis said so far, 23 states have offered aid to Greece: Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, France, Croatia, Spain, Czechia, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, United States, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Switzerland, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Kuwait, Moldavia, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Germany, and Qatar.