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The ‘Free Monks’ Phenomenon: Music and Modernity in Contemporary Greek Orthodoxy

A paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, Atlanta, Georgia, August 15, 2003.  

by Lina Molokotos-Liederman

Post-doc researcher: University of Exeter/Centre for European Studies, UK and GSRL/EPHE, Paris, France. 
E-mail: Liederman5@aol.com


This paper
[1] is the first draft of a study that is currently in progress on the first Orthodox rock music band in Greece. The focus of the research is Free Monks (Eleftheri), a Greek rock band of black-robed Orthodox monks who, through their music and other activities, have attempted to mix and interact with Greek youth and break off the mould of Orthodox clergy as being stiff and distant. The example of Free Monks provides an instructive case study of current attempts to modernise Greek Orthodoxy and enhance its appeal, particularly among young people.

I.  The Context: The Resonance of the Helleno-Orthodoxy in Contemporary Greek Identity

In order to fully grasp the social aims and appeal of Free Monks it is important to understand the Greek socio-religious context in which the group was born, and more particularly the linkage between national identity and religious tradition in Greece, which is strongly echoed in the current social, political and cultural life of Greece.  The bonds between Hellenism and Orthodoxy in Greece have been coined in the concept of “Helleno-Christianity”[2] , an all-encompassing notion embracing not only culture, but also a larger historical, intellectual and spiritual heritage that has contributed to shape modern Greek identity up to this day. In Greek historiography “Helleno-Christianity” became a term used by intellectuals to represent the historical and cultural continuity of ancient Greece, through Byzantium, into modern Greece (Makrides 1991 ; Tsoukalas 1993, 1999). Although Helleno-Christianity has become synonymous with Helleno-Orthodoxy, it is actually Helleno-Orthodoxy that has played a key role in modern Greek identity. It is on this particular point that the Church of Greece continues to justify its legitimacy in Greek society, insisting on its active participation in the construction of the modern Greek nation and on Helleno-Orthodoxy acting as an adhesive body holding together the national unity of Greece. Today, the bonds of Greek society and Orthodoxy are maintained through a variety of institutions (Church, State, Education) and cultural and religious activities. Helleno-Orthodoxy resonates in various aspects of contemporary Greek public life, including Church-State relations, state celebrations, popular religiosity, rites of passage and the education system.

After the Greek War of Independence, attempts to modernise the newly created Greek State turned the Autocephalus Church of Greece into a department of State, which did not allow the creation or the development of a free and truly independent Greek Church (Agouridis 2002). The Church of Greece[3] is governed by its own Holy Synod but remains under the authority of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs[4], which pays the salaries of priests and approves the enthronement of bishops and the licensing of church buildings for all religious denominations (Veremis 1995, Makrides 1994, Stavrou, 1995, Papastathis 1996). According to Article 3 of the Greek Constitution of 1975, which is declared in the name of the Holy Trinity, the prevailing religion representing the majority of Greek population is Eastern Orthodoxy under the authority of the autocephalous Church of Greece, united in doctrine to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Although freedom of religion (freedom of religious conscience and worship) is protected by Article 13 of the Constitution for known religions (legal entities of public law), proselytism is prohibited (Pollis 1992, Alivizatos 1999, Konidaris 1999). Overall, the Orthodox Church is granted significant legal and financial privileges compared to other Churches in Greece[5]. Furthermore, the Orthodox clergy is frequently invited to give their blessings in the military, in prisons, national civil celebrations and military parades (which coincide with religious feasts and ceremonies), and during presidential and government inaugurations (Pollis 1999). Therefore, the Church expects State protection through the Constitution and other legal and financial means, just as the State depends on the Church as a homogenizing and unifying force (Kokosalakis 1996).

Although belief in God remains relatively high[6], Greek society retains a fairly passive attachment to the church, with church attendance limited mostly to special occasions (Davie 2002, Lavdas 1997, Kokosalakis 1996, Frazee 1980). Popular religious and national festivals[7] and major feasts of the Christian year highlight the importance of popular religion in Greece (Kokosalakis 1995, 1996, Veremis 1995, Alivizatos 1999, Stavrou 1995, Makrides 1994, Dubisch 1990). Religious practice is higher than most other EU countries[8] and, according to a recent Greek study, church attendance between 1985 and 2000 has showed signs of growth rather than decline (Georgiadou and Nikolakopoulos 2001)[9]. There is a clear popular attachment to the Orthodox Church as far as rites of passage are concerned, such as baptisms, marriages[10], and burials[11]. At the same time, there is a significant degree of syncretism and some growth of new religious movements (Kokosalakis 1996). Small but visible conservative groups (‘Neo-Orthodox’ groups, Old-Calendarists[12]) also exist, using religion as synonymous with Greek identity (Kokosalakis 1996, Stavrou 1995). Forms of ‘Neo-Orthodoxy’ emerged in the 90s, supported by some intellectuals, artists and theologians, aiming to rediscover a forgotten and, in their terms, more authentic Orthodox tradition (Fokas 2000, Makrides 1998).

Despite recent attempts towards the liberalization of Greek religious education, the Greek school system continues to transmit Helleno-Orthodoxy into the new generations (Pollis 1999). Based on the prevailing religion model (Article 3), weekly religious instruction is mandatory in Greece’s public school system ; it consists essentially of an Orthodox interpretation of Christian faith and social issues (Argyriou 1992, Sotirelis 1998, Molokotos-Liederman 2003b). Furthermore, Greek textbooks tend to stress the uniformity and continuity of Hellenism across centuries[13] (Frangoudaki-Dragona 1997).

II.   Birth of an unlikely group of rock stars

After the international success of a group of Benedictine monks in the 1990s who introduced Gregorian chants to the domain of popular music, "Eleftheri" (literally meaning “The Free” in modern Greek) is a group of Greek Orthodox monks, all aged between 18 and 30 years, from the Saint Augustine and Seraphim Sarof monastery in the village of Trikorfo, in Central Greece. Clothed in long traditional black robes they look like any traditional Greek Orthodox Monk that you would expect to meet in a monastery, but their attempt is to break the archetype of Orthodox clergy as being rigid and close-minded.

Since 2000 “Free Monks”, commonly called “Paparokades” (rocking priests), have put out 3 musical albums. The band’s first album, “I Learned to Live Free”, with its debut hit song, struck a chord among Greek youth, with song titles such as “Anarchy and Rock ” and “Pal, I’m Down”. According to the group, the word "Eleftheri" conveys the “freedom to think, speak, decide and act according to one’s will” and the “freedom from passions and sins and every type of fascism, which may attempt to dictate or impose their opinion on the individual” (www.freemonks.gr). Therefore, “Free Monks” want to convey a message of freedom and autonomy through God from any form of control and oppression. The songs contain traditional Christian and patriotic themes from the Bible and warnings against possible negative consequences of globalization, drugs, materialism and technology. Accompanying MTV style music videos feature the monks singing on a modern rock beat along with other traditional music themes (for example, chorus, bells and traditional Greek musical instruments) “Free Monks” also give regular concerts across the country featuring Father Panteleimon (the lead singer) dressed in the traditional black robe, other male and female singers, as well as a group of young people who all sing together in a chorus and follow the music with subtle body movements, rather than dancing. The proceeds from these performances are almost always donated to various social causes and charities, for example programs to treat diabetics and drug addiction, and the Special Olympics. The success of their first album was followed a second one a year later (“SOS”) and a third one in 2002, which also featured the guest appearances of other Greek musicians and singers. “By Your Side”, the group’s third album, contains for the first time some English language songs designed to broaden the international and ecumenical appeal of the group. To that effect, they began a North American tour in the spring of 2003 with fund-raising performances in Boston, New York and Chicago as part of a campaign to raise funds and protest the death penalty of 11 Greek prisoners scheduled to be executed in US prisons.

“Free Monks” first met each other as teenagers in a youth camp of the Orthodox Missionary Brotherhood of the Saint Augustine and Seraphim Sarof monastery before actually forming the musical group. Therefore, behind the birth of the music group lies the history and the social and religious activities of the Orthodox Missionary Brotherhood of the Saint Augustine and Seraphim Sarof, created by Father Nektarios Moulatsiotis, who is the band’s manager and spiritual leader. Born in Athens, he completed his high school studies in Detroit, USA, but returned to Greece where he graduated from the Theological Faculty of the University of Athens. After working as a teacher for 10 years, he created and worked in various catechist schools and Christian missionary centers for the youth in Athens. He became a monk, later a deacon and then an Archimandrite but in 1984 Father Nektarios established the Brotherhood of Saint Augustine, which has many missionary activities in Athens and two cenobite monasteries in Fokida, central Greece. One of the monasteries boasts one of the largest bell towers in the world (400 bells). A year later, he began the construction of Christian summer youth camps symbolically called Gallillee; the youth camps host every summer approximately 250 girls and boys (in separate periods) from Greece and all over the world, free of charge.

Behind the songs of the “Free Monks” lies the philosophy and social work of the Brotherhood of the Saint Augustine. According to its philosophy and mission, the Church and the monks should work within society and interact with young people. In this context, the youth camps are run by the monks themselves at their monastery in Trikorfo, with activities including sports, such as soccer, basketball, water rafting, tennis, go-carting, horse-back riding, etc., chess, bowling and other games, music and singing, farming (in a farmhouse which hosts a variety of exotic animals) and group prayers in the morning and evening. Proceeds from the sales of the music albums go to the summer camps. According to Father Nektarios, the group wanted to save young people from the temptations of modern life, to bring them closer to God and to encourage them to attend the Church, by “using the same tools as the devil” (www.freemonks.gr). He advocates a change in the ways with which the Church communicates with young people and the need for the Orthodox Church to approach and bring back its flock through new means of communication such as contemporary music. Therefore, as part of his social and religious mission, Father Nektarios has not only created the music group "Eleftheri", but also two publications, targeting 15 to 25 year olds, published on paper and on-line: "Orthodox Testimony" and "YOU" (its actual full title is “Whatever You Say Does Not Mean That I Will Agree”). The publications have approximately 3000 subscribers each and cover a variety of topics, including recent national and international events, music, film, cooking, and correspondence with other subscribers, etc. The Brotherhood has also actively entered cyberspace with the creation of a web site (www.freemonks.gr), which acts as the Brotherhood’s communication tool designed to encourage dialogue with its young fans and promote its activities and philosophy.

Reactions to the musical group and to the activities of Father Nektarios from the Orthodox establishment and the Church of Greece, including the Holy Synod (the main administrative body of the Church of Greece), have been mixed. There have been doubts on numerous occasions on the holy status of the Brotherhood and the Monastery and there have also been reports in the media of alleged financial and other types of scandals. Some conservative circles argue that the activities of the “Free Monks” are incompatible with the humble character of Orthodox priesthood, thus betraying the Greek monastic tradition, and reject western influences on their music. Despite his mixed reception by the Orthodox clergy and the Church of Greece, Father Nektarios has taken part in television debates and given interviews in order to support the positions of the Greek Church. For example, Father Nektarios has been active in the Church’s struggle against the government’s removal of religious affiliation from Greek identity cards (Molokotos-Liederman 2003a ; Anastassiadis 1996) and he is the President of the coordinating Committee against the Schengen Agreement. It is also worth noting that in their first album they dedicated a song to the Archbishop of Greece, Christodoulos, under the title: “I Took the Path of Fire”. The title may have been chosen strategically given that, since Christodoulos became the new Archbishop of the Church of Greece, Greek Church-State relations have been heated and tense (see the identity cards conflict).

Beyond the Orthodox establishment, the group has been well received among young people. The albums have reached gold and platinum sales in Greek pop charts. The group’s first album sold nearly 70,000 copies in Greece and rivalled Greek popular music, while their second album reached number two in national pop charts. Quite apart from the sales figures of the music albums, more research needs to be conducted on the actual social appeal and significance of the group among audiences in Greece and among Greeks abroad, including a more detailed analysis of the general social profile of the group’s fans.

According to the group, “Free Monks” offer messages of hope on the human condition and to the impasse in which young people find themselves today. What emerges from a more in-depth content analysis of the 3 albums put out by the “Free Monks” is that their songs and lyrics seem to revolve around religious, nationalist and social themes. Through contemporary rock music and MTV style video-clips, the group conveys messages that conjugate Christian moral values with patriotic themes and some anti-globalization undertones.

The religious themes in the songs are the most prevalent, particularly the idea of Christ and God as a means to deal with social problems that young people face today. Against secular themes, for example feelings of isolation, loneliness, depression, anger, meaninglessness, drug and alcohol addiction, the songs attempt to offer a profoundly religious message of hope and inner strength, promoting God and the message of Christ as an answer to these problems. These ideas are represented by key words in the lyrics, such as “greediness”, “corruption”, “slavery”, “ruler”, which are counter-balanced by terms such as “resurrection”, “oasis”, “angel”, “light”, “joy”, “ray of hope”, “love”. For example: “God speaks to your heart, eternally our guide in life…” (album: “By Your Side”) and “God shows me signs to remain evermore faithful and give love to all. God shows me signs, for everything there’s a principle, all that I ask from Christ, is for you to remain in my heart…” (album: “By Your Side”). Moreover, the video clips and CD covers, particularly the “SOS” album, display a rich iconography of religious themes, including photographs of crosses and Orthodox Churches and monasteries, such as the Aghia Sophia in Istanbul, as well as Orthodox icons and imagery depicting the Virgin Mary, various saints and Jesus. These religious images are also mixed with more secular themes, such as photographs of seascapes and cityscapes (New York), every day scenes of people and children, microchips, money, the Greek flag, etc., which help to further emphasize the active social involvement of their particular view of religion and their emphasis on interaction between society and religion.

Besides the religious themes in the lyrics, “Free Monks” clearly support and promote the link between national identity and religious tradition, namely the bonds between Greece and Orthodoxy, as the road to “salvation” for the Greek Nation. In their songs, they seem to support the idea of Orthodoxy holding together the national unity of Greece. In their songs this type of nationalistic and patriotic discourse is evident in lyrics such as “The nation is not for sale, the Church doesn’t die, and our history won’t be forgotten…” (album: By Your Side) and “My friend, love Greece and Orthodoxy, when you forget them there is no freedom…” (album: “I Learned to Live Free”). At the same time, there is a certain reminiscence for the past and for the glory of Byzantium, symbolised by Aghia Sophia with images of the Church on the CD covers and in the video clips, there is also an entire song dedicated to “Aghia Sophia” that includes lyrics such as “Come, come to Aghia Sophia, come so that the liturgy may continue…” (album: “I Learned to Live Free”). Words such as “flag”, “cross”, “fatherland” are indicative of the clear association between Greece and Orthodoxy, which are also symbolised in the lyrics and imagery on the CD covers through references to the Greek flag and the cross.

Finally, the struggle for personal freedom, through God, against the dangers of globalization, technology and materialism is another theme that is referenced in the songs.  “Our borders you are erasing. What sort of fascist regime are you enforcing ?” and “I do not want a big boss because I learned to live free ….” (album: “I Learned to Live Free”) are indicative examples. Their “SOS” album, with its accompanying video clip of the hit song “Chipaki” (literally meaning “microchip” in Greek) was particularly focused on the dangers of absolute control from technology. The album cover and video clip features a Golden Man, a man’s face whose face and hair is covered in a gold powder while wearing trendy sunglasses. The hit song refers to microchip implants on the human body and conveys an Orwellian view of the State with references in the lyrics to dangers from Big Brother and the absolute control of human life through technology: “I’m a chip so small that will lead you to slavery …” (album: “SOS”). Their first hit song, “I Learned to Live Free” is also representative of anti-globalization messages conveyed by the group in their songs: “People of all nations unite, the New World Order calls us…The Godless civilization makes treaties and agreements…The humanists and the policemen of the nations talk about peace, but they bomb us and secure us with threats. Love, truth and justice are ruined by modernisation. Hold my brother, there is a God” (album: “I Learned to Live Free”).  These anti-globalization themes accompany some anti-western attitudes, for example lyrics that include terms such as “chains of the West”; these ideas have also been expressed through some of the discourse of the Orthodox Church itself, which, particularly during the identity cards conflict, tended to identify globalization and modernization with European culture and a Catholic and Protestant core[14]. In this context, the construction of a common European culture is often perceived as synonymous with the undermining of Greek culture and Helleno-Orthodoxy (Makrides 1993)[15]. Such anti European or anti-western tendencies in Greece can be partially explained by the view that since Greece’s EU membership, economic progress has outpaced social development, which has resulted in a growing sense of insecurity with regards to Greece’s position global economy. 

Concluding Remarks

The aims and activities of the Brotherhood of St. Augustine, including the songs of “Free Monks”, have to be analysed against the background of the social role of the Orthodox Church in Greece. The overall philosophy of the Brotherhood is focused on active social involvement and social service, and more specifically on interaction with young people at a level that they can relate to. This approach seems to be directly challenging Orthodox theology, which has been traditionally focused inwards with a more holistic approach combining diaconal service, salvation and spirituality. The Eastern orthodox tradition tends to be mystical, placing more emphasis on religious acts and the celebration of rites and sacraments, and less on direct missionary action or social service, as is the case in the Western tradition and the Catholic and Protestant churches. The Greek Church’s participation in social service seems to be still focused on Orthodox theology and spirituality, attempting to respond to various social problems with more philanthropically and theologically principles, such as compassion and the love for the other. In that context, the Greek monastic tradition is directed even more inwards with monks usually abstaining from material issues in order to devote themselves to a spiritual life dedicated to liturgy, prayer and penitence as well as artistic Byzantine iconography. Thus, Orthodox monasteries in Greece represent the culmination of personal and spiritual freedom functioning as places of a higher Orthodox spirituality, with only a few monasteries participating in the social services of the Church of Greece, such as offering assistance to the poor. Against this background, it is at this level that the “Free Monks” and the religious Brotherhood of the Saint Augustine are challenging traditional Orthodoxy and the institution of the Church of Greece: they have initiated a campaign of active social involvement and interaction with young people through means that are unconventional for the Orthodox Church in order to better achieve their social and religious goals, aiming at bringing Greek youth closer to the Church.

Another element that emerges from the “Free Monks” phenomenon is a somewhat paradoxical form of Orthodox modernity, whereby key components of modernity and globalisation, such as rock music, MTV style video clips and active self-promotion and communication through the media and the internet, are employed by the group in order to transmit a deeply religious discourse and a nationalistic version of Orthodox Christianity, which seems to be resistant to many facets of modernity, such as globalisation and secularisation. The translation of some of the group’s albums into English, indicating the recognition of English as global language, could be perceived as an attempt to put down geographic/language borders in the context of globalization but, as the “Free Monks” have argued, their approach is consistent with the ecumenical spirit of Orthodoxy, for example the fact that the Bible has been translated in so many languages of the world.

To conclude, what does the “Free Monks” phenomenon mean for Greek Orthodoxy? Greece, through its membership in the European Union, is in a phase of late modernization, and thus in a time of great change in social, economic and political terms. However, as Makrides argues, Orthodoxy in Greece remains a “condition sine qua non”, embodied by the national Church of Greece (Makrides 1991). Greek Orthodoxy, especially among young people, functions as a cultural point of reference, regardless of the degree of religious belief or church attendance. Since the late ‘90s there is a revival in the institution of the Church of Greece, initiated by Archbishop Christodoulos, with an attempt to “flex its muscles” in order to take a more active part in the political and social life of the country. However, at the same time the Church adopts a defensive attitude, expressed through a populist discourse of anti-globalisation and anti-western (anti-European/anti-American) messages, more specifically warnings against the risk of Greece losing its national and religious identity through secularisation and materialism, considered as Western imports. It is at this level that through their songs and other activities the “Free Monks” have been “in tune” with the message of the Church of Greece and successfully addressed the insecurities of Greek youth towards, what they see, as the “New World Order” of globalisation. The longevity and extent of their approach and success remain to be seen in the future.


[1] As the writing of this paper is still in progress, bibliographic references and citations are not fully completed. return to text

[2] For the historical context and development of the “Helleno-Christian” adjective, see Peter Mackridge “Cultural Difference as National Identity in Modern Greece”, 2002, unpublished paper  (the same author refers to K. Th. Dimara’s introductions to K. Paparrigopoulos, Istoria tou Ellinikou Ethnous (1st version 1853), Athens: 1970 and Prolegomena, Athens: 1970) and T. Anasstassiadis, 1996. return to text

[3] In addition to the Church of Greece, there are 3 other ecclesiastical jurisdictions, which remain under the supervision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey: the Church of Crete and of the Dodecanese islands and the monasteries of Mt. Athos.  return to text

[4] After the creation of the modern Greek State the autocephalus Church of Greece was placed under the authority of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and the Holy Synod (a non elected body of government appointees to the Greek Church) with King Otto as the head of the Church who had authority to intervene in religious affairs and approve the election of bishops (Papastathis 1999, Kitsikis 1995, Jelavich 1985). Placing the Church under the Ministry of Education originated in the idea that the transmission of spiritual faith along with education was an essential foundation for the construction of the modern Greek State (Petrou 1992). In 1975, with the revision of the Constitution, the Church became more independent under a revised administration system that limited the restrictive fashion with which the State could regulate Church affairs (Papastathis 1999). return to text

[5] For example, licensing for the building or operation of non-Orthodox places of worship requires permission from the Ministry and the local Orthodox bishop (Alivizatos 1999). The mandatory religious instruction (focused primarily on Orthodox theology) provided by the Greek education system can be seen as an indirect form of proselytism or religious indoctrination on behalf of the Church of Greece.  return to text

[6] According to the European Values Survey in 1999, 93.8% of respondents in Greece believe in God, a higher percentage than the European average (77.4%) (Halman 2002, Lambert 2002).  return to text

[7] For example, the date of the annual pilgrimage to the Annunciation Church in Tinos and to the Icon of the Madonna (Panagia) coincides with state celebrations of Greek national independence.  return to text

[8] According to the European Values Survey in 1999, 53.9% of respondents in Greece go to Church on special occasions (European average: 38.8%), 20.9% of respondents go to Church once a month (European average: 10.8%) and 22.3% of respondents go to Church once a week (European average: 20.5%) (Halman 2002, Lambert 2002). Greece was not included in the previous European Values Surveys (conducted in 1991), so the 1999 figures do not allow any comparisons with previous years.  return to text

[9] Also, the monastic life in Mt. Athos is undergoing something of a revival and some monasteries are now being restored with new recruits coming from Australia and America and traditionally orthodox countries.  return to text

[10] Although civil marriage was established by law in 1982, statistics indicate that only approximately 8.5% of marriages in Greece are civil, as Greeks prefer to have marriages solemnised in the Orthodox Church (Kokosalakis 1995, Makrides 1994). According to the European Values Survey in 1999, 89.6% of respondents in Greece (European average: 73.6%) want a religious service for marriage (Halman 2001, Lambert 2002).  return to text

[11] According to the European Values Survey in 1999, 92.5% of respondents in Greece (European average: 82.3%) want a religious service at the time of death, while only 69.1% (European average: 74.9%) want a religious service at the time of birth (Halman 2001, Lambert 2002). Demands for civil burials and cremations are increasing. Civil burials are permitted by law and citizens are free to choose between a civil or religious burial, but the underlying assumption of the Church is that those who select a civil burial are atheist (Kathimerini, 14 May 2000). Cremations remain against the law in Greece (Kathimerini, 14 May 2000) ; the Church has voiced its opposition towards cremation but an association and a cross-party alliance of Greek MPs has proposed a bill to legalize cremation (Kathimerini, 14 May 2000; Eleftherotypia 15 March 2002).  return to text

[12] See Kitsikis, Dimitris 1995: The Old Calendarists and the Rise of Religious Conservative in Greece, Monographic Supplement.XVIII, Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies.  return to text

[13] In Greek history textbooks, Helleno-Christianity is first introduced in the chapters devoted to the Roman Empire, particularly the period of Emperor Justinian. According to the textbooks, Justinian’s internal policy was founded on Greek culture and Christian faith, which created the so-called “Helleno-Christian world” (textbook of 4th grade, p. 256). Another example is religion textbooks, where Helleno-Christianity and the link between Orthodoxy and Greek identity is not only established, but also explicitly affirmed. Here are two representative excerpts from the religion textbooks: « Our people linked their life with Orthodox faith and life.  This can be confirmed by the study of the history of our nation, our traditions and our hopes » (textbook of 3rd grade, p. 216).  « The reception of Hellenism by Christianity was so successful that today it is very difficult to distinguish between these two elements … [The synthesis between Christianity and Hellenism] can inspire and provide new directions to contemporary Greek society and offer solutions to the problems of humanity in Europe and in the entire international community » (textbook of 5th grade, p. 209).  For a more detailed analysis of Greek religious education see Lina Molokotos-Liederman, “L’orthodoxie à l’école grecque”, unpublished paper and public lecture at the Ecole Partique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, France, as part of a European conference on "Sciences des religions et systèmes de pensées", 20 March 2003.  return to text

[14] This tendency is historically rooted in the first centuries of the Byzantine Empire and the old conflict between the Western Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church, which goes back to the great schism between the two churches (Woodhouse 1986). Indicative of the animosity of the Eastern Orthodox Church towards the Catholic Church is the popular dictum that the Papal tiara (i.e., the Fourth Crusade of 1204 being the primary factor for the decline of the Byzantine Empire) is worse than the Turkish turban (under which the Orthodox Church was in a privileged position) (Dimitras 1984, Tsoukalas 1999). Venetian occupation and extensive missionary activities converting Orthodox populations to Catholicism have also contributed to an overall hostile attitude towards the Catholic Church (Dimitras 1984, Champion 1993). Today it seems that many Orthodox Churches, including the Greek one, consider most positions and actions of the Catholic Church as a new form of crusades towards the East (Anastassiadis 1996).  The recent conflict in Yugoslavia illustrates how these historically negative attitudes towards the Catholic Church still resonate today. For example, even before the NATO bombing of Serbia, most Greeks supported the Serbs and mainstream public opinion in Greece, including the Orthodox Church, was opposed to the bombing of Serbia by the Western allies, because of a sense of solidarity for the Orthodox Serbs. In purely religious terms, the conflict was seen as the opposition between an Orthodox Serbia and a Catholic Croatia. Another example is the protest campaign organized by some Orthodox communities against the Pope's recent visit in Greece, which was perceived as part of a larger strategy to "latinize" the Balkans and eastern Europe to the detriment of the Orthodox faith (The Guardian, 4 May 2001, The Guardian, 20 March 2001, International Herald Tribune, 5-6 May 2001, Wall Street Journal, 10 May 2001).  return to text

[15] This growing insecurity is reinforced by the fact that, although the European Union has no official denomination, its religious core in 1995 was estimated as approximately 53% Catholic and 20% Protestant (9% Anglican, 3% Orthodox, 2% Muslim, 0.5% Jewish) (Willaime 1996).  return to text


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Identités religieuses en Europe, Ed. by Grace DAVIE and Danièle HERVIEU-LEGER, Paris : La Découverte.
1995  ‘Icons and Non-Verbal Religion in the Orthodox Tradition’, Social Compass, Vol. 42, No. 4.

KONIDARIS, Ioannis 1999: Themeliodis Diataxeis Scheseon Kratous-Ekklesias, Athens: Sakkoulas.

LAMBERT, Yves 2002 : "Religion: l'Europe à un tournant", Futuribles, no. 277.

LAVDAS, Kostas 1997 : The Europeanization of Greece, Macmillan.

MACKRIDGE, Peter 2002: “Cultural Difference as National Identity in Modern Greece”, unpublished paper.

MAKRIDES, Vasilios 
1998  ‘Byzantium in contemporary Greece: the Neo-Orthodox current of ideas’, in Byzantium and the Modern Greek Identity, Ed. by David RICKS and Paul MAGDLAINO, Ashgate Publishing.
1994   ‘La tension entre tradition et modernité en Grèce’, in Religions et laïcité dans l'Europe des douze, Ed. by Jean BAUBEROT, Paris : Syros.
1991    ‘Orthodoxy as a Condition sine qua non: Religion and State Politics in Modern Greece from a Socio-Historical Perspective’, Ostkirchliche Studien, December.


2003a  “Identity Crisis: Greece, Orthodoxy and the European Union", Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 18, No.3 (upcoming)
2003b   “L’orthodoxie à l’école grecque”, unpublished paper and public lecture at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, France, as part of a European conference on "Sciences des `religions et systèmes de pensées", 20 March.


1999  "La République hellénique", in Les Origines Historiques du Statut des Confessions Religieuses dans les Pays de l'Union Européenne, Ed. by Brigitte BASDEVANT-GAUDEMET and Francis MESSNER, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

1996   ‘State and Church in Greece’, in State and Church in the European Union, Ed. by Gerhard ROBBERS, Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos, Verlagsgesellschaft.

PETROU, Ioannis 1992 : Ekklesia kai Politiki, Thessaloniki : Ekdotikos Oikos Kyriakidi.

POLLIS, Adamantia: 1999 “Ellada: Ena Provlimatiko Kosmiko Kratos”, in: Nomika Zitimata Thriskeftikis Eterotitas, Ed. By Dimitris Christopoulos, Athens: Ekdoseis Kritiki.

SOTIRELIS, Yiorgos 1998 : Thriskia kai Ekpaidefsi : apo ton Katichitismo stin Polyfonia, Kommotini : Sakkoulas.

STAVROU, T.G. 1995: The Orthodox Church and Political Culture in Modern Greece, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

TSOUKALAS, Constantine 1999: ‘European Modernity and Greek National Identity’, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Vol. 1, No. 1.

VEREMIS, Th. and DRAGOUMIS, M. 1995: Historical Dictionary of Greece, Metuchen: The Scarecrow Press.

VOSSOU, Sophia 2002 “Paparokades”: Plastes istories kai pragmatikotita, Athens: Ekdoseis Livani.

WILLAIME Jean-Paul 1996: ‘Les religions et l'unification européene’, in Identités religieuses en Europe, Ed. by Grace DAVIE and Danièle HERVIEU-LEGER, Paris : La Découverte.




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