He became known to the people of Thessaloniki when he was chosen as the head of the local church in April 2004. After that, he managed to provoke the interest not only with his action as Mitropolitis but also with his strong opinions about everything that happens in Greece. His ”rivalry” with the mayor of Thessaloniki, Giannis Boutaris, was a widly issued subject during the last municipality elections. Surely, he managed to make the position of the Head of the Church of Thessaloniki more interesting than ever. His Holiness Anthimos of Thessaloniki talks to Greek Reporter about everything – the election results, the economic crisis, and the limit of…comedy shows.
A few days ago, Greece had a crucial election. Do you believe that the results are a form of protest against the two former major parties?
It was a surprise for the Greek people because the result of the elections cause difficulties to the existence of a stable government which the country needs because of the serious obligations and rights we have inside the European Union. The thing that gives us hope is that there will be a solution, either a second round of elections, which is not the best but if it is nessesary to be done so a responsible government can continue everything that has been done until now with the European Union. Despite some results that we think that they are not in favor of us, the orientation of Greece is clearly European. We can’t be alone as it is today, the global image of the countries. It should be in cooperation with Europe but we have to guard the right demands of the Greek people.
What is your opinion on the entrance of Golden Down?
The entrance of Golden Down is something that caused great surprise to the Greek people. I think that it is a transient phenomenon because those who voted, this unexpected percentage, seem that they didn’t know the beliefs of this effort, or this party. In any case, when the new parliament starts, it will be a party inside the government and it will be more clear which should be the position on this movement.
Which is the position of the Church in the crisis that faces the country given that there are some who protest against some of its positions eg. to the matter of taxation on its possessions?
The Church was the number one non-governmental organization that encountered the situation of the reduction of the employee’s salaries, the unemployed and the retired in such a degree that caused a social problem. This situation gave the Church the opportunity to act both to the Attiki and to Thessaloniki, where there are three metropolis’ in total. With our initiatives we cover the necessities of the people, even for their food. I have to say that in the whole region of Thessaloniki, nobody can tell that he stays without food. There is a great mess. It was an adventure that we didn’t expect and we were a little unprepared but now I believe that we can do better.
Do you agree with the recent decision of transferring illegal immigrants from Athens to other cities including Thessaloniki?
Yes, I totally agree because the great number of illegal immigrants was for thousands of people of the capital a real disaster that lead them to move to northern regions of Attiki. Another thing very frightening for our country is the great delinquency, with crimes done mostly by strangers that are illegal. In terms of their transfer to installations outside Attiki, I totally agree with the condition. Firstly, that those installations will provide the same guaranty, that provide installations like that in other European countries, and second, that the final return to their countries will be taken with all the necessary preparation. If someone returns to his homeland, he always finds something.
Do you believe that some strict statements of people in high places about immigrants may be used as an alibi for behaviors from some people?
I don’t believe it because Greeks are emotional people and Christian Orthodox, and in the face of every man we see God himself. And we can have our disagreement, ‘What do you want here?,’ but we will not behave bad or in a criminal way. This is very rare and that’s why at this moment the victims are the Greek citizens who suddenly see their cities fill up with strangers where there is a very high percentage of unemployment. This is something that should be solved. It is better to help the countries from which they come from the big European countries, from Russia, instead of coming here and no one can find a job.
You had issues with some comedy shows. Do you believe that there is a limit in their topics?
Of course there is a limit. There are some things that anyone would react very badly to and not like us, only through the courts. The respect to the personality of someone and the institutions he represents it is important for the harmony of the relations between people in one society.
What is your opinion on the matter of some Jewish companies which are interested in investing in real estate on the beach of Thessaloniki?
I was the one who made it public. Every landlord guards his house and tries to be generous to the others. In the case of your homeland, we try to protect it and from the other side wherever we can be generous, we will be. The problem will be if in this case, they are hiding other purposes.
But this won’t help Thessaloniki where the unemployment is high?
This movement aims mostly on the creation of hotels. It is not for big companies eg. constructive ones. And this raises some questions. But Thessaloniki during the period of the Jewish persecution was very generous and a philanthropist to these people.
Which is the relationship of the Mitropolis of Thessaloniki with the other religions and dogmas of the city?
Since they are officially recognized religions, we don’t have a relationship but we don’t also have a problem. Our problem is with those who exercise violent conversion. We are obligated to protect our people, especially the priests, and this aims especially on the Martyrs of Jahova and a movement which deals with metaphysical matters. But we deal with them as pastors.