Joseph, New-Martyr Of Euboea, Greece

The following is from Vladimir Moss's book: "The Orthodox Church at the Crossroads". It is the martydom of an Old Calendarist priest who's memmory is celebrated on July 22 which is tonight/tomorrow according to the Julian Calendar:



The 1940s were a time of great distress and physical hardship for the Greek people. The Italian invasion was repelled only to be followed by the German occupation. This then passed into the civil war between the royalists and the communists, during which both the State Church and the True Orthodox Church suffered greatly at the hands of ELAS, ELAM and other communist guerrilla organizations.

It was at this time that the two major struggles of the Orthodox Church in this century against Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, and against newcalendarist ecumenism in Greece, Romania and the West began to merge. Thus the Greeks discovered by experience the horrors of Communism, while the new calendarist and Balkan hierarchs were called (in February, 1945) to travel to Moscow and legitimise the "election" of Stalin's puppet, "Patriarch" Alexis of Moscow. And a few years later, the tentacles of Ecumenism would begin to be felt in the communist world, too.

Among the hieromartyrs of this period was Hieromonk Joseph Antoniou, whose biography as a True Orthodox priest is very illustrative of the sufferings of that period.

Fr. Joseph joined the True Orthodox Church from the State Church in 1933, and was assigned to the parish in Carystos on the island of Euboea. He immediately came into conflict with the fierce Metropolitan Pantaleimon of Carystia and Skyros, who had already shown his antipathy to the True Orthodox by throwing the 80-year-old Fr. George Antoniou into prison in Chalkis, where he died. Fr. Joseph's vigorous missionary activity, combined with his charity and healing gifts, only increased the wrath of the new calendarist hierarch, who succeeded in getting Fr. Joseph's church sealed. Once Fr. Joseph, like a new John the Baptist, publicly denounced the metropolitan for celebrating an uncanonical marriage and having no pity on the couple who would suffer as a result (two years later, they were burned to death in a car accident). Finally, Fr. Joseph had to flee in order to escape arrest, and was assigned to another parish in Dombrana, near Thebes.

On August 4, 1936 the democratic regime was replaced by a royal dictatorship with John Metaxas as Prime Minister. Metaxas was very liberal in relation to the True Orthodox, but in 1938 the Minister of Public Order, egged on by Archbishop Chrysostom Papadopoulos, gave an order for the arrest of True Orthodox priests and the sealing of their churches. Although this order was soon repealed, Metropolitan Pantaleimon used it to urge the authorities in Thebes to arrest Fr. Joseph and seal his churches. Fr. Joseph was cast into prison in Chalkis, deposed and forcibly shaved. On his release he was sent by Metropolitan Germanus to Xylocastron, near Corinth. Once installed in Xylocastron, he brought his parents there and continued his apostolic activity.

During the German occupation, communist guerillas entered the area and occupied several of the villages. Fr. Joseph fearlessly denounced their false teaching and terrible cruelties against the people. Two or three times they warned Fr. Joseph to stop speaking against them. But he replied: "You are waging the anti-Christian communist struggle, but I am waging the opposite struggle, the Christian struggle." Soon the decision was taken by the communists to execute the troublesome priest.

Shortly after Pascha, 1944, an unknown old man entered the church where Fr. Joseph was serving, and told him that throughout the service he had seen blood flowing from under this cassock. From that time, Fr. Joseph prepared himself for martyrdom. Attacks on priests were increasing at this time. Only three months before Fr. Joseph was killed, he invited Bishop Germanus of the Cyclades to baptize the son of his spiritual son John Motsis. The local communist chief ordered the bishop to leave immediately.

On July 20 Fr. Joseph celebrated the Liturgy in the village of Laliotis. Then the communists entered the house where he was staying, arrested him and threw him into prison, where he was tortured. On July 22, he was taken out of prison with another young man by three guerillas. On seeing the youth of the executioners, Fr. Joseph sadly shook his head and urged them not to commit the crime. The communists forced their victims to dig their own graves, killed the young man, and then turned to Fr. Joseph.

He was allowed to sing his own funeral service. Then one thrust a knife into his back, but the blade broke. While another knife was being fetched, the executioners smoked and watched Fr. Joseph's death agony. He said: "I will be the last victim of this knife, but the one who kills me will be the first to die from this knife." After killing the martyr, as the executioners were returning, they quarrelled and the one who had killed Fr. Joseph was killed by his comrades, while the first one was later executed by the Germans.

In September, 1945, Fr. Joseph's father and brother, with the help of his donkey, found and exhumed his body. It was fragrant. A heavenly light was often seen over the tomb of the hieromartyr during the evenings.

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