The Church and the National Identity of Greece

The face of the Greco-Catholics of the third millennium is undoubtedly more and more multicultural, and the changes which this Church with strong roots is experiencing do not appear to be abnormal if they are part of a larger history. The ability to create new syntheses of civilizations is the secret and greatness of Mediterranean culture, which has always been based on reciprocal exchanges, not just economic ones, and on an indefinite system of coexistence between different human groups.

The Catholic Church in Greece is a minority presence which, in addition to a historic community of residents, especially on the islands, has within it a growing international community. Still in the minority in a context where the Orthodox identity is associated and claimed as a founding element of Greek nationality itself, Greek Catholics constitute 0.5% of the population, or about 50,000 people, and they are considered a religious and non-ethnic minority.

To better understand this situation, we need to consider some statistical data. Greece covers an area of ​​approximately 132,000 square kilometers and has a population of approximately 11 million people, of which approximately 97 percent profess the Orthodox Christian faith. Over the past two decades, however, the number of Catholics in the country has quadrupled, reaching around 350,000 faithful.

The first flows of people date back to 1985. In particular, with the fall of the communist regimes, several hundred thousand Catholics arrived in the country. The Poles alone reached the figure of around 100,000. Then came the Albanians, Romanians and Ukrainians. More recently, with the tensions in the Middle East, it was the turn of the Syrians and the Lebanese. And there is no shortage of Asians: Filipinos, Indians, Sri Lankans.

The last Catholics to arrive come from the African continent, in particular from the sub-Saharan region: they cross the Mediterranean or the States of the Middle East, and land in the various islands. It is the faithful who have the most difficulties, because they are not legal citizens and cannot count on a job.

The majority of Catholics live in Athens, a city of about four million people. But many settled in the Cyclades, where Syros (8,000) and Tinos (3,000) have fully Catholic villages and parishes. There are Catholics in Corfu (2,500), Patras, Thessaloniki (2,000), Ioannitsa, Kavala, Volos and in the more remote islands of Rhodes, Kos, Crete, Naxos, Santorini, Samos, Chios, Kefalonia and Zakynthos.

Besides the Latin rite Catholics, who represent the majority of the faithful, there are also 2,500 Byzantine rite Catholics and several hundred Armenian Catholics. (Silvina Perez)


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