Not Wittenberg, in Anafiotika
A recent social media storm has taken place in this little church on the edge of Anafiotika, the Greek islander settlement on the foot of the Acropolis, St Nicholas Rangavas. When I realised it was right next to me as I was touring Plaka, I thought it fitting to make a detour.
As detailed in Nick Nicholas’ answer to Are there altar girls in Greek Orthodox churches
, the parish priest uploaded a photograph of the two altar girls that assisted him in the Easter service. In the fine print of Orthodox canon law, girls can serve at the altar if no boys are available, and according to church committee members, the letter of the law was observed: Athens is something of a ghost town around Easter, as people living in Athens return to their ancestral villages to celebrate the holiday.
The parish priest, Fr Alexandros Kariotoglou, had already attracted negative attention from conservatives for celebrating the mass in the vernacular, and then for blessing the gay parents of a child he was christening. He was seeking to make a point this time too. Spooked by enraged social media reactions
, the Church of Greece was happy to oblige: he was suspended, pending a decision of the Synod of the Church of Greece.
The final photo is the chilling announcement from the parish that they will respect the decision of the Church of Greece, whatever it might be, in the spirit of Christian Love, and that they consider the entire matter closed.
Their Facebook post sounds a bit less like selling Fr Kariotoglou out (“Church canon is not a cannon, for killing people”, they cite a recent Saint as saying). But this was never going to be a Vatican II moment, let along a Wittenberg.
(As it turns out, the Synod had already convened to discuss the matter a few days before I was in Anafiotika, without coming up with a clear position—and given the loophole about altar boy availability that Kariotoglou had used, it is not obvious that it could have. In any case, the Synod clearly wanted to put the whole embarrassing incident behind it; Kariotoglou started celebrating mass again the day after I walked past his church.)