Parish News

Well done you resilient People of Kos!

Nobody would doubt the devastation the earthquake has caused on the island of Kos, 6.7 in magnitude.. It struck at around 01.30 am on Friday morning, thereafter followed 20 aftershocks throughout the night. I was in Rhodes at the time and felt the impact. The earthquake triggered a two-foot tidal wave which flooded parts of the old town. On Saturday morning I boarded the ferry and headed for Kos.

The effects were indeed severe. The boat was not able to dock at the usual part of the harbour as the wall had been damaged by an an enormous crack, but we landed safely. I was met by one of the parishioners, Mrs. Sharon Lloyd. We made our way with one of our visiting priests, Father Karol from Poland, straight to the hospital to visit some of the 200 hundred wounded who had been taken there. Many had suffered broken bones, twelve had been airlifted to major trauma centres in other parts of Greece. One very cheerful young man, Joseph, from the Pharoe Islands, had just arrived in Kos on Friday with three friends. They had gone out to a bar that evening and the earthquake struck. Falling masonry had fallen on him and damaged his back. We were able to bring him bottles of water and his delight was evident when given a can of coca-cola, the simple things in life can often bring great comfort. I was able to translate for a pregnant Syrian lady who had come from the refugee centre, it seems the fear from the earthquake had stressed her but in fact she was fine. From the hospital we made our way to the beautiful Orthodox Church of St. Nicolas in the town square, the sanctuary wall had collapsed. We said a prayer outside and then moved on to visit the nearby mosque. The minaret had fallen. The TV crews approached us and one cameraman remarked that he was pleasantly surprised to see the Catholic priests at the mosque. I told him that we are all God’s children and especially at these times we must work together to bring relief and comfort to everyone, race, colour and creed being of no importance. As we made our way from the old town to the Catholic Church of Kos, we were able to greet the locals and the tourist, to offer some words of comfort and support.

We found that the Catholic Church was also badly damaged. There are great cracks from top to bottom inside and outside the church. Most of the statues and pictures fell and are broken. All these things can be repaired. We give thanks that the damage to human life was small. We sat quietly for a few moments in prayer. As I collected my thoughts, it then struck me: despite all the destruction and fear, the locals of Kos, as they did during the refugee crisis, rose immediately to the challenge. They came to the aid of the thousands of tourists. Risking their own lives, the emergency services and soldiers began to evacuate the hotels and bars in the town centre. They began to take the wounded to the small hospital, where everyone was attended to and those critically ill flown to trauma centres in other cities in Greece. By the morning, the Mayor, Mr. Giorgos Kyritsis, who had worked tirelessly throughout the night, had organized for the damaged buildings to be cordoned off. The rubble was cleared where ever possible. Alternative areas of the harbour were made ready to receive the ferries and boats. By the afternoon, the tourists were sat happily and without fear in the bars and restaurants in the town centre and life continued as normal.

Meanwhile, the honorary British Consul, Mrs. Ourania, was at the airport comforting, supporting and dealing with the tourists who wished to return home. She is a fearless woman who did not hesitate to sail to Kos to offer help to those in need. Our own Archbishop in Athens, H.E. Sebastian, Fr. Mark the Secretary of the Apostolic Nuncio to Greece in Athens, the Custos of the Holy Land In Jerusalem, Father Francesco Patton and many others offered their help and assurance of prayers.

The people of Kos need to be commended for their courage and resilience. The people of Kos rose to the challenge of the Refugees crisis in 2015 and now they rise again to this present challenge. I remarked to the people during the Liturgy this Sunday that the opening prayer talks to us about Faith, Hope and Love and what I saw in Kos on Saturday was these three virtues most evidently in practice. The Greeks have Faith; Greece is still very much a Christian country, the Greeks have Hope, hope that despite hardships and difficulties, better time will come and I saw and I see with my own eyes that Love is put into action. They love God, and very plainly I see that they love their neighbour, yes, they love their neigbour as the love their own selves.

Well done to the people of Kos ! well done to the Greeks ! despite the economic problems in this country, you still have many things that you can teach to the rest of Europe and to the world!

Fr. Luke ofm

Parish Priest Rhodes and Kos