Category : Greece

(Saint Philip’s Church) Penn Hagood–St. Philippian Greek Odyssey: Learning the Extraordinary Persistence of Paul

Traveling to Greece often evokes thoughts of an odyssey. Homer’s adventures of Odysseus’ decade spent “sailing the wine dark sea” longing to journey home to Ithaca remains a riveting tale. Odysseus endured storms and shipwrecks, encountered mythical gods and goddesses, monsters, witches, kings, and princesses.

Paul was treated monstrously in many places. He was driven out of cities, often barely escaping with his life. He was harassed by a woman possessed by a demon, a slave girl that some might have called a witch. As he recounted in his second letter to the church in Corinth: “Five times I received…the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” Paul suffered greatly, yet he endured. Paul persevered, holding fast to his single purpose, to share the good news of Jesus Christ and the hope of salvation.

Our St. Philippian jaunt, following in Paul’s footsteps, was tame by comparison. We certainly did not experience hunger as we feasted daily. Our only similarity was that a few of us were blown off course when someone opened Aeolus’ bag of winds, releasing raging storms, and diverting flights. Still, in spite of our modern conveniences and comforts, after two weeks, we were exhausted and sleep deprived, completely worn out. Our endurance was tested briefly. We gained an appreciation for Paul’s decades of endurance.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Greece, History, Missions, Parish Ministry, Theology: Scripture

(Economist Erasmus Blog) The Greek Orthodox Church faces a battle over secularisation

Theresa May is not the only public figure in Europe who is making a rearguard defence of a “historic” agreement about an ultra-sensitive matter that was struck behind closed doors and may not survive open debate among the interested parties.

Earlier this month it was reported that a landmark accord had been reached to secularise the most theocratically governed democracy in Europe, Greece. The bargain was sealed on November 6th between the country’s leftist and atheist (though not especially anti-religious) prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and the head of the Greek Orthodox church, Archbishop Ieronymos. Today the archbishop was struggling to defend the accord before the bishops who make up his Holy Synod. It has been billed as the hardest moment in the 80-year-old cleric’s ten-year reign, and even a turning point in the 200-year history of the Greek state.

The deal is certainly an intriguing piece of political gamesmanship. One provision dominated the headlines: the country’s 10,000 or so priests would no longer be considered civil servants, with all the job security and pension rights that go with that status. Instead the state would pay the church an annual subsidy of €200m ($230m) a year, a sum that would not be affected by any change in the number of clerics. Over time, the need for such a subsidy would diminish. In what was described as a win-win arrangement, a large portfolio of properties, ranging from land to urban real estate, whose ownership had been disputed between church and state since the 1950s would be jointly managed for the benefit of both parties.

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Posted in Greece, Orthodox Church

(WSJ) David Studdart–The Strange Rites of the Ancient Olympics

Like doping scandals today, rigged outcomes and cheating, though not common, certainly did tarnish the ancient Games. Visit Olympia, and you can still see the bases of the “Zanes,” bronze statues of Zeus erected from fines imposed on cheating athletes, with inscriptions naming and shaming the culprits. But nothing diminished the allure of the Olympics. Only Christianity could overcome them. With the banning of pagan practices by the Roman Emperor Theodosius in A.D. 391, their days were numbered, and by 425 the Olympics were no more.

For well over a thousand years the Games survived seismic shifts in politics and society, not to mention long-raging wars. Their religious focus undoubtedly played a major part in their longevity. And they evolved, too, with new contests being introduced (those for heralds and trumpeters were perhaps the most bizarre) while others (such as the mule race) were phased out.

But it was more than all that, and here we arrive at the continuing appeal of the modern Games as well. The philosopher Epictetus put his finger on it. Even as he noted “the cacophony, the din, the jostling, the shoving [and] the crowding” of the ancient Games, he had to admit that “you are happy to put up with all this when you think of the splendor of the spectacles.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Greece, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sports, Theology

(BBC) Paris attacks 'ringleader' Abdelhamid Abaaoud evaded Athens police in January

Greek police tried to capture the suspected ringleader of the Paris terror attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, in January but the operation failed.

A Belgian anti-terrorism source told the BBC the Athens operation planned to target Abaaoud before anti-terror raids in Belgium, but that did not happen.

Abaaoud had been directing the Belgian cell by phone from Athens.

Abaaoud died in a battle with French police five days after the 13 November Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, France, Greece, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

Bp David Hamid–Ecumenical coordination in Athens is growing for the sake of refugees

Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, of St Paul’s Athens, reports on the emerging ecumenical cooperation in Greece with regard to assistance for refugees. This emerging coordination is a fruit of much Anglican initiative.

On the morning of Thursday 15 October six Christian agencies and Churches came together in the offices of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR), Athens, to learn what each one was doing in the face of the refugee crisis. They were able to share information on the resources that each may have and to explore the possibility of working more cohesively and effectively.

Around the table were Apostoli (the centre for the welfare work of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Athens), International Orthodox Christian Charities, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Caritas, the Salvation Army, the Greek Evangelical Church, the Anglican Chaplaincy in Athens (who joined by representatives of Anglican Alliance and Us) and a representative from UNCHR. All welcomed greatly the opportunity to be informed of what each Church was doing and something of the resources each could bring to the table.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecumenical Relations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Greece, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

John Cochrane The Grumpy Economist: Greece Again

My main thought: what about the banks? The minute Greece reopens its banks, it’s a fair bet that every person in Greece will immediately head to the bank and get every cent out. The banks’ assets are largely Greek loans, which many aren’t paying — why pay a mortgage to a bank that’s already closed and will probably be out of business soon anyway — and Greek government debt; mostly Treasury bills that only roll over because banks hold them. They can’t sell either, so the banks will instantly be out of cash.

The deal reported in today’s papers really barely mentions that problem. But that is the problem of the hour.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Europe, Greece

(Economist Erasmus Blog) The euro, theology and values–The meaning of redemption

When big questions, like the future of Europe, hang in the balance, it can be tempting to toy with grand theories about the ways in which religion affects culture and economics. A famous one was put forward by Max Weber (pictured), who posited a link between capitalism and Protestant ideas of guilt and salvation. Such theories usually contain a grain of truth, but religious determinism shouldn’t be pushed too far because there are always exceptions.

Still, as religious-determinist theories go, an interesting one was put forward by Giles Fraser, a well-known left-wing priest of the Church of England, in a recent radio broadcast. He suggested that behind the financial standoff between Greece and Germany, there was a theological difference (between western and eastern Christians) in the understanding of how humans are reconciled with God.

As Mr Fraser recalled, traditional Protestant and Catholic teaching has presented the self-sacrifice of Christ as the payment of a debt to God the Father. In this view, human sinfulness created a debt which simply had to be settled, but could not be repaid by humanity because of its fallen state; so the Son of God stepped in and took care of that vast obligation. For Orthodox theologians, this wrongly portrays God the Father as a sort of heavenly debt-collector who is himself constrained by some iron necessity; they prefer to see the passion story as an act of mercy by a God who is free. Over-simplifying only a little, Mr Fraser observed: “the idea that the cross is some sort of cosmic pay-back for human sin [reflects] a no-pain-no-gain obsession with suffering,” from an eastern Christian viewpoint.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Christology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, G20, Germany, Greece, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(Globe and Mail) Greece bailout deal keeps country in the euro, but for how long?

Greece has received a tentative reprieve from exiting the euro, but the harsh austerity demands piled onto the recession-damaged country may still ultimately force it out the door, economists say.

Some of them think the chances of a Greek exit form the euro ”“ Grexit ”“ have not in any way diminished now that Greece and its creditors have tentatively approved a three-year, €86-billion bailout package that will boost Greece’s debt, increase taxes and trigger privatizations at what will likely be fire-sale prices.

In a note published Monday, Manulife chief economist Megan Greene said the deal, if approved by both sides and the national parliaments of the euro zone countries “will almost certainly be a failure for both political and economic reasons. The immediate risk of Grexit may be slightly lower following the summit conclusions this weekend, but the overall risk of Grexit is materially higher.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Greece, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(FT) Wolfgang Münchau–Greece’s brutal creditors have demolished the eurozone project

The fact that a formal Grexit may have been avoided for the moment is immaterial. Grexit will be back on the table when you have the slightest political accident ”” and there are still many things that could go wrong, both in Greece and in other eurozone parliaments. Any other country that in future might challenge German economic orthodoxy will face similar problems.

This brings us back to a more toxic version of the old exchange-rate mechanism of the 1990s that left countries trapped in a system run primarily for the benefit of Germany, which led to the exit of the British pound and the temporary departure of the Italian lira. What was left was a coalition of countries willing to adjust their economies to Germany’s. Britain had to leave because it was not.

What should the Greeks do now? Forget for a moment the economic debate of the last few months, over issues such as the impact of austerity or economic reforms on growth, and ask yourself this simple question: do you really think that an economic reform programme, for which a government has no political mandate, which has been explicitly rejected in a referendum, that has been forced through by sheer political blackmail, can conceivably work?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Germany, Globalization, Greece, History, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(AP) Greece reaches deal with creditors, avoids euro exit

Greece reached a deal with its European creditors Monday, pledging stringent austerity to avoid an exit from the euro and the global financial chaos that could have followed.

The deal calls for Greeks, already reeling from harsh measures and economic decline, to cut back even further in exchange for more loans without which its financial system would surely collapse. The deal, which still needs approval from Greece’s parliament, will be the country’s third bailout in five years.

To get to a deal, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had to overcome the fundamental mistrust of many of his allies among the 18 other countries that use the euro, known as the eurozone. Just a week earlier, at his urging, Greeks had voted in a referendum to reject many of the measures he agreed to Monday, and the deal forced him to renege on many of his election promises.

“We managed to avoid the most extreme measures,” Tsipras said. “Greece will fight to return to growth and to reclaim its lost sovereignty.”

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Update: Politico also has a summary article on the deal there.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Greece, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(Telegraph) Greek deal in sight as Germany bows to huge global pressure for debt relief

The contours of a deal on Sunday are starting to emerge.

Syriza has requested a three-year package of loans from the eurozone bail-out fund (ESM) – perhaps worth as much as €60bn ”“ and is reportedly ready give ground on tax rises and pension cuts.

Germany’s subtle shift in position comes as the United States, France, and Italy joined in a united call for debt relief, buttressed by a crescendo of emphatic statements by Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund.

“Greece is clearly in a situation of acute crisis, which needs to be addressed seriously and promptly. We remain fully engaged in order to find a solution to restore stability, growth and debt sustainability,” said Ms Lagarde.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Germany, Greece, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

([London] Times) Merkel faces rebellion in Berlin over Greek bailout

More than 100 MPs in Angela Merkel’s conservative party group have already written Greece out of the euro, even as its government scrambles to cobble together a plan acceptable to creditors.

The size of the rebellion in her own ranks ”” the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union faction ”” limits the German chancellor’s ability to soften her position against Greece and all but kills off its hope of a huge debt write-off as part of the new bailout plan it needs to prevent a banking collapse.

Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, has been given until midnight tonight to submit plans justifying another multibillion-euro loan deal to keep Greece afloat or face a future outside the euro, with the EU already preparing humanitarian aid for the Greek people.

Announcing its intention yesterday to seek a three-year bailout, Greece said it wanted to make its €323 billion debt mountain “sustainable and viable over the long term”, code for the cut of 30 per cent demanded by Mr Tsipras.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Germany, Greece, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(London Times) Make concessions by tomorrow or you’re out, Greece told

The German Red Cross said today it was willing to rush medical and other humanitarian aid to Greece as the country’s economy teetered on the brink of collapse.

“We are ready in every respect,” spokesman Dieter Schutz told Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper. “Pensioners, the poor, the sick and refugees” have been hit hardest, he said.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, who will chair the summit said: “I have no doubt that this is the most critical moment in the history of the EU. This will affect all Europe also in the geopolitical sense.”

President Hollande of France, the most optimistic of eurozone leaders on finding a solution, said: “What is at stake is the place of Greece within the EU and therefore the eurozone.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Greece, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

Do not Take Yourself Too Seriously Department–Monty Python football: Greece versus Germany


ROFL.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Germany, Greece, Humor / Trivia, Movies & Television, Sports

(AI) Walter Russell Mead–After The “No” Vote, Soft Grexit Landing Now EU’s Best Option

There are, as many European and American writers have been commenting lately, sound geopolitical reasons to prevent the worst from happening in Greece. Migration issues, NATO issues, energy issues, terrorism, Russia: an angry, inflamed, suffering and radicalized Greece on a kind of Venezuelan path to national destruction could make life much more difficult for Europeans and Americans both. These considerations should be enough to command some attention and resources from policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic sufficient to avert worst case scenarios for the Greek people.

For Grexit to be a step forward rather than a step back, Western and Greek leaders need to become more creative and forward-looking. Washington needs to stop bleating platitudes about the evils of austerity and to start thinking hard about bolstering an alliance that remains critical to its global position; Brussels and Berlin need to move beyond anger at Greek tactics to a sober calculation of Europe’s interests; the Greeks need to reflect on the cost of being represented at a grave hour of national crisis by inexperienced politicians who none of their counterparts in Europe trust or respect.

But Brussels and Berlin (and Paris, Rome and Madrid) need to realize something else. Greece’s problems under the euro have been worse than anyone else’s, but Greece is not totally unique. There are deep design flaws in the euro and the common currency has not worked nearly as well as any of its proponents hoped. The discussion over the future of Greece needs to be delinked from the discussion over the future of the euro””but that doesn’t mean that the future of the euro doesn’t need to be discussed.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Greece, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(PS) Mark Roe–Europe and Greece on the Brink

…the risks have not been eliminated. The margin for error for the major banks and other financial institutions is narrow. Because they are still not strongly capitalized, modest losses from direct defaults and indirect losses from companies with business in Greece can threaten bank equity, causing bankers to cut back on lending. A few miscalculations in a major institution could have substantial repercussions. Making matters worse, central bankers have only a limited capacity to buoy the economy, as interest rates are still near zero.

The second channel through which risk and loss can spread from Greece is other heavily indebted countries, like Spain and Italy. So far, the financial markets have not panicked over the ability of these countries to repay their bonds. But a shift in the political situation ”“ especially in Spain, where the left-wing Podemos party is doing well in the polls ”“ could change that in an instant.

Finally, a Greek default and exit from the eurozone could unleash unpredictable political forces with a knock-on effect on the European economy. After all, it was the first wave of austerity in Greece that led to the election of Syriza, a left-wing party that few had expected would ever govern.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Greece, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(NPR) Hours From Greek Bailout Vote, 2 Sides Evenly Divided

Greece’s prime minister has put his political clout behind the “no” camp in a referendum to decide whether the country should accept the terms of an international bailout. But the people appear to be evenly split on the issue, according to two new opinion polls.

One survey, conducted by the respected ALCO institute just 48 hours before the referendum that could decide Greece’s economic fate and future in the eurozone, gives the “yes” camp 44.8 percent against 43.4 percent for the “no” side, according to Reuters.

But a second poll, conducted by Public Issue and published in the ruling party’s newspaper, reports a 0.5-percentage-point lead for those opposed to the bailout.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Greece, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector

(NYT) Mixed Messages and No Progress in Greek Crisis

In the past few days, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece has blown up negotiations with European creditors on staving off default, then retreated and accepted more or less the same terms, only to have European leaders tell him the offer had expired.

Greeks are supposed to vote on a referendum this weekend, but no one there or elsewhere seems sure what they will be asked, or what the consequences will be for voting yes or no.

And European leaders here and in Berlin and Paris have been saying distinct ”” sometimes directly contradictory ”” things about whether there is a bailout deal for Greece still on the table, and whether they want Greece to hold its referendum before they can renew discussions about it.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Greece, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(FT) Gideon Rachman–Europe’s dream is dying in Greece

The danger now is that, just as Greece was once a trailblazer in linking a democratic transition to the European project, so it may become an emblem of a new and dangerous process: the disintegration of the EU. The current crisis could easily lead to the country leaving the euro and eventually the union itself. That would undermine the fundamental EU proposition: that joining the European club is the best guarantee of future prosperity and stability.

Even if an angry and impoverished Greece ultimately remains inside the tent, the link between the EU and prosperity will have been ruptured. For the horrible truth is dawning that it is not just that the EU has failed to deliver on its promises of prosperity and unity. By locking Greece and other EU countries into a failed economic experiment ”” the euro ”” it is now actively destroying wealth, stability and European solidarity.

The dangers of that process are all the more pronounced because Greece is in a highly strategic location. To the south lies the chaos and bloodshed of Libya; to the north lies the instability of the Balkans; to the east, an angry and resurgent Russia.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Greece, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(FT) Mario Draghi warns of ”˜uncharted waters’ if Greece crisis deteriorates

Mario Draghi said the euro area was better equipped than it had been in the past to deal with a new Greek crisis but warned of “uncharted waters” if the situation were to deteriorate badly.

The European Central Bank president called for the resumption of detailed discussions aimed at resolving the country’s debt woes and urged the Greek authorities to bring forward proposals that ensured fairness, growth, fiscal stability, financial stability.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Greece, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

Giles Fraser–Arguments over Greek debt echo ancient disputes about Easter

The western church typically criticises the eastern view for having a “free lunch” view of salvation. No pain, no gain, insists Anselm. The eastern church says that the west fetishises suffering and is more committed to some iron logic of cosmic necessity than to God for whom all things are possible.

Atheists such as Alexis Tsipras, the Greek leader, may think both of these are fantasies. But for present purposes that’s beside the point. It’s worth recognising that these two completely different stories support two contrasting moral worldviews and different attitudes towards economics in general and capitalism in particular. Tsipras ”“ like me ”“ is very much more in the Greek Orthodox camp when it comes to salvation. And the Lutheran minister’s daughter Angela Merkel is very much in the western one. He wants to leap free from death-dealing debt. She believes it must be paid back, no matter how much blood and pain is involved.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Economy, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Germany, Greece, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Politics in General, Roman Catholic, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(FT) Wolfgang Münchau–Europe puts future at risk by playing it safe

…look where Greece has ended up after five years of crisis resolution. It has had one of the worst performances in economic history; yet we have just concluded an extension of the same policy.

Can this be sustainable? The pragmatists in Europe’s chancelleries say they can roll over loans indefinitely at very low interest rates. Economically, this is the equivalent of a debt writedown; yet politically it is easier to deliver because you do not need to recognise losses. The equivalent statement in a military conflict would be: if you renew a ceasefire often enough, you end up with peace.

This type of argument is not only immoral and dishonest. It also does not work. While you play this game of ex­tend-and-pretend, the real economy implodes: austerity has caused a meltdown in income and employment. Monetary policy mistakes caused a fall in eurozone-wide inflation rates that made it impossible for Greece and other periphery countries to improve the competitiveness they lost in the early years of monetary union.

If the EU deals with Ukraine in the same way it dealt with Greece, you can expect to see a parallel development in a few years.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Greece, Politics in General, Russia, The Banking System/Sector, Ukraine

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Greece, religion and geopolitics-A hint of civilisations clashing

As my last posting noted, the first edgy thing which the new Greek government did was to downgrade, albeit very politely, its relations with the church. The second thing was to upgrade a relationship whose historic roots are at least partly religious, with Russia. On his first day in office, prime minister Alexis Tsipras met the Russian ambassador, and then distanced Greece from an EU statement which protested over Russian actions in Ukraine and threatened further sanctions. He then named a foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, who enjoys cordial relations with the religious-nationalist segment of the Russian elite.

Lots of questions arise. Is this a great historical paradox – the consolidation of a sentimental tie based on common Orthodox Christianity, under a secular Greek government and a stridently pious Russian one? That would be an interesting reversal of the cold war. Or is the relationship more cultural and historical, based on common memories of shimmering mosaics and swirling incense, rather than actively religious? If that is true, then it is not particularly dependent on what people on either side now believe.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Foreign Relations, Germany, Greece, History, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Russia

(FT Editorial) Syriza’s electoral win is a chance to strike a deal

It is easy to see why Syriza put debt repudiation at the heart of its electoral campaign. John Paul Getty once opined that “if you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem; if you owe the bank $100m, that’s the bank’s problem”. Greece’s predicament may ultimately force creditors to the negotiating table. To service its debt burden would require Greece to operate as a quasi slave economy, running a primary surplus of 5 per cent of GDP for years, purely for the benefit of its foreign creditors. Even the IMF has dropped hints in favour of some debt forgiveness.

But Greece’s EU creditors have equally strong reasons for refusing. Caving to Syriza’s demands would come at a high political cost, particularly for Germany’s Angela Merkel, who is harried by the eurosceptic AfD on her right. Other struggling countries would find their own radical parties emboldened by Syriza’s success. No country deserves to live beyond its means indefinitely.

Back in 2011, Greece posed an existential threat to the eurozone. Today, Berlin and Frankfurt are no longer as frightened by the prospect of Greece leaving the single currency. Yet for the Greek people this would be a catastrophe: a giant economic step backwards and a blow to living standards just as severe as any endured under austerity.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Greece, Politics in General, Theology

Predictions suggest Greece's radical left-wing Syriza party is 1 vote short of absolute majority

The leader of the left-wing Syriza party Alexis Tsipras has said Greece is “leaving behind disastrous austerity”, after his party claimed victory in the country’s general election.

And the 40-year-old told jubilant supporters the “Troika” of the country’s lenders “is finished”.

He was speaking after the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who heads the conservative New Democracy party, conceded defeat to Mr Tsipras.

Partial election results suggest Syriza has secured 36.5% of the vote, compared to 27.7% for the New Democracy party.

Read it all from Sky news.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Greece, Politics in General, Theology

(NPR) Syrian Refugees Find Little Comfort In Greece

The sea is a dangerous way to enter Europe. Nearly 3,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean this year. Those rescued by the Chios Coast Guard arrive to a bare-bones shelter with no toilet, shower or running water. There, I visit Joud al-Bakri, an 18-year-old aspiring pilot from Aleppo. She sits on the floor of a wooden shack the size of a bedroom.

How many people are in this little house here?

JOUD AL-BAKRI: I guess 20.

KAKISSIS: Twenty.

AL-BAKRI: Maybe, yeah.

KAKISSIS: Is it comfortable?

AL-BAKRI: No, it’s not. Actually, when you’re sleeping, you just can’t move.

KAKISSIS: The shack is crowded. Everyone sleeps on the floor.

AL-BAKRI: It’s really hard even to sleep here without anything. And some people are sleeping outside, which is freezing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Children, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Greece, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Middle East, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Syria, Theology, Violence

([London] Times) Orthodox Church tax breaks infuriate the Greeks

Greece’s government has caved in to demands by the Orthodox Church, affording tax breaks to monks, monasteries and members of the clergy despite crippling austerity measures hitting much of the rest of the country.

Under the surprise provision, retired monks earning annual pensions of up to €9,500 will be cleared of their obligation to file taxes while hundreds of monasteries, controlling priceless plots and ancient treasures, will be exempt from declaring their assets to the state.

For a nation still reeling from four years of brutal budget cuts, plus a new land levy that hikes taxation by as much as 75 per cent for Greece’s five million property holders, the freebie has enraged taxpayers and stoked social tension even further.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Greece, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes, Theology

(AP) In Greek crisis, Orthodox priest buys inmates their freedom

Germany made headlines this week by letting Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One chief, pay $100 million to end his bribery trial. In Greek justice, money talks in a different way: Some inmates jailed for minor offenses are allowed to buy their freedom, at an average rate of five euros per day.

With the rich at a clear advantage, Greek Orthodox priest Gervasios Raptopoulos has devoted his life to paying off the prison terms of penniless inmates.

The soft-spoken 83-year-old has helped more than 15,000 convicts secure their freedom over nearly four decades, according to records kept by his charity. The Greek rules apply only to people convicted of offenses that carry a maximum five-year sentence, such as petty fraud, bodily harm, weapons possession, illegal logging, resisting arrest and minor drugs offenses.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Greece, Ministry of the Ordained, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Prison/Prison Ministry, Theology

Manchester United Survive to go on in the Champions League

David de Gea Double save toward the end of the first half saved the game; it was so great to see Rooney and Van Persie combining well for a change.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Europe, Greece, Men, Sports

(BBC Magazine) The Greeks who worship the ancient gods

The summer solstice, 21 June, is one of the most important dates in the calendar for many followers of ancient religions, and it’s a special time for people in Greece who worship the country’s pre-Christian gods.

“I love the energy this place has,” says Exsekias Trivoulides who has pitched his tent on what he considers to be the holy site of Mount Olympus.

Trivoulides is a sculptor who studied art history and classics, and these days, he is living his passion….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Greece, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture