ANGRY AT THE CZAR
Greeks Will Not Attend the Russian Church To-Day.
LOYALTY TO MOTHER COUNTRY.
The Great White Fathers Actions Have Made Hellenes Resentful.
ANOTHER CHURCH MAY BE FORMED.
Twenty-Five Greeks Have Gone to Join the Army and a Few More Will Follow Them.
The bitter and unrelenting war that is now being waged between Greece and Turkey has caused a serious breach in one church in this City and will result in the formation of another within a short time.
The loyal Greeks of this City have always attended the Russian cathedral, presided over by the Right Rev. Bishop Nicholas, and which is under the control of the Russian orthodox church.
This church is supported the world over by the Russian Government, and the Great White Czar is its head and mainstay.
Therein lies the trouble in this City. The Pan-Hellenic Society of San Francisco, of which Mitchell Vanvales, the Washington-street commission merchant, is the president, numbers about 150 members, and it has been the custom for them to attend Easter services in a body. The recent actions of the Czar, however, in the trouble between their country and the land of the Sultan have decided the majority to remain away from the annual services that take place to-night.
They think that the ruler of the Russias has shown a decidedly anti-Greek spirit and they cannot consistently show respect for him by attending his church.
The Easter services of the Greek Catholic church are peculiar and have a particular significance. Shortly after midnight of the Saturday preceding Easter Sunday the Bishop mounts the pulpit and kisses the cross. Then the priests follow him kissing the cross and then the Bishop and the congregation brings the ceremonial to a close by kissing first the cross, then the Bishop, third the priests and lastly hold a general kissing bee all around.
This signifies "peace on earth, good will to men," and local Greeks think it would be farcical in view of the present condition of affairs. They have nothing against the Bishop, in fact he is very popular with most of the Greeks, but they have a grievance against the mainspring of the church and will remain away from the institution under his control.
Mitchell Vanvalos said yesterday that the Hellenic Mutual Benevolent Society, of which he is a president, as a body would not attend the Easter services at the cathedral.
"Some of the members may feel like going," he said, "and no one will object if they do, but it would not be fitting in view of the Czars actions toward our mother country to go as a society.
"We do not recognize the Russian cathedral as our church and have merely attended there because we have no church of our own.
"I know one thing, however, and that is that the Greeks of San Francisco will have a church of their own as soon as the society is in a financial condition to build one and can get a priest out from Greece."
Loyalty for the cause of Greece in its struggle with Turkey still remains at an enthusiastic pitch among the Greeks living in this City and vicinity. Many of them would be only too glad to journey to their native country and take up arms for her, and would doubtless do so could they raise sufficient funds to make the trip.
"All who could afford the long and costly journey," said Mr. Vanvales, "have started for Greece already. I think about twenty-five have gone to join the army. The difficulty is that most of the Greeks located out here are hard-working people who have no bank accounts. If sufficient funds could be raised we would send about 200 more able-bodied young men to fight the Turks, and they would prove to be dashing soldiers, too. Our society has but little money in its treasury, and this is being drawn upon for sick benefits and burial expenses; so you see we cannot do as we would like to in the way of assisting some of the patriotic ones to the scene of the war."
The San Francisco Call, Saturday, April 24, 1897, p. 14:5
Reprinted in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol. 5, No. 8, April 1998