Greek Atheist Union Protests ‘Holy Light’ Transport Funding
Greek Orthodox tradition has it that on the day preceding Orthodox Easter when a blue light emanates from Christ’s tomb, the Patriarch of Jerusalem enters the Holy Sepulchre. He does so without any device that could light a fire—matches, lighter. Clergy from various denominations search the patriarch to make sure he isn’t carrying any incendiary devices before he goes in.
Once inside, the patriarch starts praying. From his prayers a candle he carries with him supposedly lights up miraculously with the holy light of the resurrection. The light then flies around the church lighting the candles of the parishioners as well. Since this is regarded as a sacred miracle, the Greek government sends a plane to Israel to bring this “Holy Light” to Greece where it is received by church and state leaders.
Edward Gibbon, in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote about the “miracle.”
“This pious fraud, first devised in the ninth century, was devoutly cherished by the Latin crusaders, and is annually repeated by the clergy of the Greek, Armenian and Coptic sects, who impose on the credulous spectators for their own benefit and that of their tyrants.”
The Atheist Union of Greece has argued that given the Greek economic situation, the cost of transporting the flame from Israel to Greece should not be borne by the government.
“In a time when taxpaying Greeks are experiencing cuts in wages and pensions, severe taxation, unemployment and compression of real income, we consider unthinkable that the Greek State and therefore the Greek taxpayers give even one euro for the transfer of the supposed ‘Holy Light.’”
The Patriarch of Jerusalem responded: “To the Atheists’ Union’s claim that the Holy Light should not travel to Greece, I have to say that their approach seals the fact that only the people of the darkness are afraid of the Light and I assure them that despite their opposition, the Holy Light will come this year in our country.”
The Atheist Union of Greece, an Affiliate Member of AAI, continues to object, although to date, the “Holy Light” continues to fly to Greece at government expense.