By John Zarocostas
Archbishop Hieronymos II of Athens and All Greece on 2 February warned the Greek government of a possible social upheaval if more austerity measures are ushered in by international financial institutions overseeing the sovereign debt crisis.
“Our hearts are shattered and our minds are blurred with all that is taking place,” he said in a letter sent to interim Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, extracts of which were published in Greek on the Greek Orthodox Church’s official site (www.ecclesia.gr).
“The phenomenon of the homeless and the famished, a reminder of WWII occupation conditions, is taking nightmare dimensions,” wrote Hieronymos.
The interim coalition government is in the midst of critical talks with the International Monetary Fund, European Union, and European Central Bank to secure additional funds to avert a default over Greece’s huge debt burden.
The institutions are pushing for further wage cuts and tax hikes, on top of those already imposed in the last 15 months, as a pre-condition for releasing the next installment of funds. More than half a million people have lost jobs since the debt crisis began in early 2010, bringing the number of unemployed in Greece to nearly one million, or 19.2 percent of the work force, according to Eurostat.
“Our fathers are unable to live after the dramatic cuts in their pensions. Family men, particularly the poorest … are in despair due to repeated wage cuts and unbearable new taxes,” the archbishop said.
“The unprecedented tolerance of the Greek people is being exhausted, rage pushes fear aside and the danger of social upheaval cannot be ignored anymore, neither by those who are in the position to give orders and those who execute their lethal recipes,” he stressed.
The church, and many other charities and faith groups, are helping tens of thousands of people daily throughout Greece, especially in the big cities.
Social groups such as SOS Children’s Villages say cases of child abandonment at youth centers and charities in Athens by parents too poor to care for their children has shocked a nation where family ties are strong.