28 February 2017, The Tablet

Archbishop predicts Greece will be wiped out if creditors demand further austerity

'The state has no more money, and we're all becoming beggars', says Athens Archbishop

A Catholic archbishop in Greece has painted a devastating picture of his country's continuing crisis, warning that the "whole nation" faces being wiped out by the international community's austerity demands. 

"The economy cannot move, so our businesses cannot survive, while shops continually close", said Archbishop Sevastianos Rossolatos of Athens. "The state is sucking our blood, and we do not know what to do. While we obviously want reforms, we also fear we'll be dead before the state accomplishes them. They're trying to support our currency via a so-called monetary policy, but they're not thinking about the very people who could make the economy prosper," he said. 

The 72-year-old archbishop was speaking as the left-wing Government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras prepared for new negotiations with international creditors from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, and protesters stormed court hearings in Athens in a bid to block the seizure of homes from insolvent citizens.

In a Vatican Radio interview this month, he said 450,000 young people, including almost all university graduates, had now left the country in search of jobs elsewhere, adding that most Greeks had given up hope of any economic upturn. "The state has no more money, and we're all becoming beggars", said Archbishop Rossolatos, who is also apostolic administrator of Rhodes. "Grandparents are helping family members with their pensions, but the pensions are still declining, while salaries diminish and insurance costs increase for employees in this madness. Whenever I leave my house, I take some money since I cannot turn away from the homeless people I meet". 

The Catholic Church makes up just three percent of Greece's population of 11 million, and had been forced to close most of its charitable projects and scale down its pastoral work in the face of tax rises and budget cuts over the past four years. In his Vatican Radio interview, Archbishop Rossolatos said the Church's Caritas charity had "no more finds" of its own, while the country's dioceses were being propped up by donations from the Catholics in neighbouring countries. He added that many people who once owned successful shops and businesses were now "homeless and sleeping on the streets through no fault of their own", as Greece awaited an expansion in production and trade.

"It's striking that only those in trouble themselves can really understand the plight of others - but as bishops, we can do nothing since our hands are tied", the archbishop said. "We seem to be moving on two different levels of logic - of the economy and of real life. They're ready to kill us to save our economy - but for whom, for people who are already dead?"



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