Anyone who’s seen a crowd of drunken soccer hooligans and isn’t a part of aforementioned crowd knows such ugly gatherings are best avoided for reasons of, among other things, personal safety. Regardless of who you rally for, the clergy, who are canonically supposed to avoid stadium games in general, should not be found among such rabid sports fanatics. Orthodox Christians have plenty to be zealous about without joining a bunch of drunks threatening the supporters of other teams. (Full disclosure: Dcn Joseph supports the U.S in the Round of 32 and Argentina, largely expected to defeat Greece in World Cup Group B, after that. NFTU)
Priest Christos, who is in his sixties, was a fervent supporter of Greek football team PAOK FC, whose fans are notorious for being among the most violent in Greece.
He would attend games dressed in his robes and a club scarf, earning him the nickname Papa Paok.
The priest earned notoriety after videos of him were posted on YouTube in the middle of a throng of supporters who were insulting an opposition team, and another showed a crowd chanting “The priest is a God”.
[Note: a search on Youtube produces a number of videos, including the following. Hooligans, the lot of them, including, sadly, the priest.]
The clerical commission in his parish, in a Thessaloniki suburb, demoted the priest and ordered not to take part in any more “uncouth gatherings of supporters”.
The decision has angered PAOK fans, who organised a Facebook campaign entitled “Free Papa Paok” which has 7,500 members.
In a press release fans denounced the decision, saying the priest carried out the “social and spiritual work of the Church on behalf of the people” and accused the Orthodox Church of a “fascist and reactionary approach”.