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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06JEDDAH333 2006-05-01 10:53:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Jeddah
Cable title:  

FACING DECLINE, ONCE LARGE GREEK ORTHODOX

Tags:   KIRF PGOV PHUM SA SOCI 
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VZCZCXRO9582
PP RUEHDE
DE RUEHJI #0333 1211053
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 011053Z MAY 06
FM AMCONSUL JEDDAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9118
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS PRIORITY 0111
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1361
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1439
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH PRIORITY 6457
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L JEDDAH 000333 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

RIYADH, PLEASE PASS TO DHAHRAN; PARIS FOR ZEYA; LONDON FOR
TSOU; DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP AND DRL/IRF

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2016
TAGS: KIRF PGOV PHUM SA SOCI
SUBJECT: FACING DECLINE, ONCE LARGE GREEK ORTHODOX
COMMUNITY PERSISTS IN RELIGIOUS PRACTICE

REF: A. JEDDAH 00237

B. JEDDAH 00308

C. JEDDAH 00328

Classified By: Consul General Tatiana C. Gfoeller for reasons 1.4 (b) a
nd (d).



1. (C) As part of the Consulate's ongoing efforts to conduct
a long-term inquiry into Christian worship in Jeddah, the
Consul General attended a Greek Orthodox Easter liturgy (the
Orthodox mass) on April 23 held at the Greek Community
Compound in Jeddah (see reftels). Hosted by the Greek Consul
General Dimitrios Zazoritis, the service included
approximately 200 worshippers, ranging from the elderly to
small children. Throughout the event, parishioners lamented
the decline of the Greek presence in Jeddah, which had once
numbered several thousand, to a mere 500. This was
attributed to the exodus of large numbers of expats following
the terrorist attacks of recent years. Of particular concern
to attendees was the closure of the compound's school, which
had also served as a church where weekly liturgies were held
by the principal, an ordained Orthodox priest. After the
lack of students made continued operation of the school
untenable, the priest returned to his native Greek island,
and, utilizing the tithing he had accumulated in Jeddah,
opened a grocery store. (NOTE: The practice of having a job
outside the clergy is common among Orthodox priests, who
often do not receive any monetary compensation from their
parish in exchange for their services.)



2. (C) According to parishioners, the difficulty in securing
entry permission for priests solely for major religious
celebrations has become increasingly prohibitive. Many
alluded to the fact that Father George, who presided over
this year's Easter celebration, had to be "smuggled" in from
Athens, though no additional information was disclosed.



3. (C) In addition, the community has consistently been
unable to find wine for use in the communion rites. In a
conversation with the CG, the commercial officer from the
Greek Consulate indicated that all alcohol shipments to the
Consulate (permitted to most diplomatic missions in the
Kingdom by the Saudi government) were halted 10 years ago
following the arrest of a Greek businessman for selling
illicit liquor. The wine used in the most recent Easter
service had only been procured at the last moment when
someone hid it in their luggage on a return from Egypt. The
condition of the church, now used only intermittently for
major religious celebrations, was indicative of the
community's decline: The iconstasis, usually an elegant
fixture of Orthodox churches, consisted of flimsy woodboard
with curtains while the icons appeared to be newspaper
cutouts.



4. (C) NOTE: Prior to attending the Easter liturgy, the CG
visited a local gourmet market to purchase traditional Easter
foods and was surprised to see a shelf of brightly-colored,
though smashed, Easter eggs displayed in the store. This
reminded the CG of a similar incident during her previous
tour in the Kingdom in the late-1980s when the mutawwa (the
quasi-official religious police) had raided a Riyadh store to
smash several bunches of Christmas ornaments that had been on
sale there.
Gfoeller