Man Arrested in Greece for Satirising Venerated Orthodox Monk on Facebook

As has been widely reported, a man in Greece has been arrested for blasphemy after creating a satirical “Pastafarian” Facebook page in which a venerated Orthodox monk named Elder Paisios is transformed into “Elder Pastitsios”. The most detailed summary of Greek media sources on the subject I’ve come across is provided by a guest-post published by the Center for Inquiry’s Free Thinking blog; the post explains that the Facebook page had received “one hundred thousand complaints”, including death threats, and that the Greek police have stated that their investigation was completed before the matter was raised in Parliament by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. In July, the creator of the Facebook page also submitted a fictitious miracle story about Elder Paisios to various Orthodox and far-right websites, “not only to expose the gullibility of the faithful, but primarily to show the poor fact-checking done by these sites”.

Elder Paisios died in 1994, and it is thought that he will be made into a saint by the Orthodox Church. A 2002 book chapter by John Chryssavgis published in Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East can be viewed on Google Books and gives an overview of his life and work, drawing  in part on a book by a fellow-monk writing under the name “Priestmonk Christodoulos”. Chryssavgis tells us that Paisios was known for his “positive and edifying counsel”, with a spirituality that recalled the Desert Fathers, and that “he directed the lives of numerous people who sought his advice through visitations and correspondence alike”.

Collections of Paisios’ writings, and of texts about him, can be found here and also here. Although much of what he wrote appears to have been concerned with spirituality, he was also the author of a pamphlet entitled Signs Of The Times – 666, which fed into apocalyptic Greek Orthodox fears over bar-codes and the EU; Chryssavgis explains that “when he no longer felt that the issue was as relevant, he encouraged people to be silent”. This site has a reproduction of the original manuscript.

Numerous prophecies have also been attributed to Paisios, some of which have been translated into English and posted to YouTube; these include the suggestion that Turkey will “dissolve” and that Greece will re-take control of Istanbul/Constantinople (Paisios and his parents were refugees from Asia Minor). One website has published an essay in which Paisios supposedly rants against how “Zionists” use “black magic” and “Satan-worship” and are preparing an Antichrist Messiah; it is claimed to have been translated into English via Russian, although no proper source is given and its authenticity is disputed.