“Almighty God protect our monastery,lthe inhabitants of the island of Evia and the pays whole flames. “ The litany resonates throughout the valley of the Big Island located northeast of Athens. It covers miles and miles of desolation, devastated forest, blackened trees, skeletons of houses, carcasses of dead animals, earth dried up by fire. Firefighters are fighting there again against the fires started at the end of August in the south of the Greek island, after the north was transformed into blaze at the beginning of the month, destroying 50,000 hectares.
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For three weeks, the monks of the monastery of Saint David have prayed every evening, every night. It is their fight against the flames, which ravaged the island but spared their monastery. “It’s a miracle, a miracle! “, repeats the higoumene, father Gabriel (1). “We wanted to stay praying until the end. We didn’t want pas abandon our relics, our church, this holy place. But at the second passage of the police who ordered the evacuation of the monastery,our bishop told us to obey. “
The flames then licked the outer enclosure of the monastery. «From the village opposite, we watched the fire envelop the monastery. We prayed with the inhabitants of the village. We couldn’t do anything else. We thought that we would only find ashes. “
Not a charred flower in the inner courtyard
But the next day, when the monks returned to the monastery, everything was intact. Not a single trace of smoke on the walls. Not a charred flower in the inner courtyard. No withered leaves on the trees. “Only the perimeter of the windows burned, but the candles which were within two meterss have not melted “, raises the higumen.
The story has spread like wildfire. Since then, the faithful have flocked to the monastery to receive a blessing, to take holy water or holy oil. Sitting in the embrasure of one of the two small doors of the iconostasis, Father Gabriel, tired and tried, confesses them, comforts them, blesses them tirelessly with the relic of the hand of Saint David circled in gold and ‘money.
“Everyone is afraid. Everyone relies on God to survive. It can start again tomorrow, and already the fire has resumed on the island ”, he sums up. ” I was scared, like everyone, to burn alive. But it is our Lord who decides. “
With his help we will rebuild everything, reforest everything
Now is the time to come back to life and reforest. 4 × 4s loaded with food and medicine keep flocking to the revered monastery all over the island. A moving decor, trees waiting to be planted are lined up against the wall of the church. «See, people don’t let us down and neither does Him. With his help we will rebuild everything, reforest everything. The monastery has seen much worse. “
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Built in 1520 by the young ascetic Saint David of Euboea, the monastery had completely burned down and saw all its monks massacred by the Turks in 1824, in the midst of the Greek war of independence, in which the Orthodox Church had taken a part active. The inhabitants rebuilt the monastery stone by stone, exactly as it was.
“The young people are all going to leave”
Further down the valley, the monastery of Saint John the Russian has also “Miraculously escaped the flames”, say the inhabitants of the neighboring village of Prokopi. «We had started a procession all around the church,recalls Yiannis, car repairer, despite the evacuation orders, nWe didn’t want to leave the relic of St. John the Russian, and by the time we were about to leave, it started to rain. Only on our church !The fire is out! »
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With a heavy heart, he adds, looking at his ravaged land: “The young people are all going to leave, our economy is destroyed, we no longer have where to graze our animals, the bees no longer have a forest to forage, tourism is dead. This time around, it will take more than one miracle to get out of this. “
Towards the creation of a specialized fire brigade
Firefighters were still battling 39 forest fires in Greece last week.
On August 27, the village of Longitsi, near Mount Othrys, in central Greece, had to be evacuated.
About 130,000 hectares burned in one month, including more than 50,000 in the north of the island of Evia.
These fires constitute “The biggest ecological disaster of recent decades” according to Conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He announced at the end of August measures to strengthen the fight, in particular the creation of a body of 500 specialized firefighters by January 2022.