Orthodox Church: Father Mitro should stand as candidate in European Parliament election without his cassock
By Piia Elonen
Pastor Mitro Repo, 50, known generally as Father Mitro, of the Orthodox congregation of Helsinki announced last Thursday that he is to stand in June’s European Parliament election as a politically non-aligned candidate of the Social Democratic Party.
The Council of Bishops of the Finnish Orthodox Church is to convene within the next few weeks in order to take a stand on the EU election candidacy of Father Mitro.
Archbishop Leo, the head of the Finnish Orthodox Church, declared to the Finnish Christian newspaper Kotimaa already in March, when Father Mitro was only considering his candidacy, that the Orthodox clergy do not take part in politics.
Nevertheless, according to Repo himself, the candidacy is no problem.
”An Orthodox priest can bear his social responsibilities in this way”, Mitro noted.
At present, Repo is on a three-year leave of absence from his job as an Orthodox pastor.
In the sphere of the Orthodox church it is impossible to think of combining politics and religion.
According to the Orthodox church circles, a person who declares God’s Truth cannot pursue his own interests or those of a political party in the attire of a priest.
The priest’s symbols are a key consideration. Political participation is a human right, which is difficult to forbid.
But representing a secular authority in priestly attire is another matter altogether.
The church demands that Repo should not wear his cassock when practicing politics.
At an SDP press conference on Thursday, Repo was again wearing his familiar robe and a large cross around his neck.
Repo says that he has been wearing a cassock ever since he was ordained into the Orthodox clergy.
He has also said that he never removes the cassock - not even when he goes to a grocery store.
Father Mitro’s answer to a number of requests by various political parties has been long awaited. Since last spring, all large parties - including the Centre, the National Coalition, and the Social Democrats - would have liked to have him to run in their colours in the elections.
Moreover, the Christian Democrats, the True Finns, and the Greens have also enquired about the possibility of his standing as their candidate.
It took Repo a long time to make up his mind.
In January, he said that he would postpone his answer until the last moment - ”like all other veteran politicians”.
The party’s election programme and its human and social dimensions eventually tipped the scales in favour of the Social Democrats, Father Mitro reported.
”The concept of a new Social Europe fits well in my ideas about the future Europe, which continues to be as human as possible and in which one could recognize a human face”, Repo added.
For the European Parliament election, the country as a whole is one large electoral constituency.
This means that the candidates enter as candidates in the entire country and the voters may vote for any of the candidates, which also means that campaigning will necessarily be expensive.
Many potential candidates have thus been musing over their participation for a long time, and for example Esko-Juhani Tennilä (Left Alliance) decided not to run as he was unable to collect enough funds for campaigning.
Apparently, Father Mitro does not have such problems.
”I have the feeling that I have been campaigning already for several years, like sort of citizens’ voluntary work. Participating in social debates and feeling that one can exert influence over something, being a kind of opinion leader, that is politics at its best”, Repo argued.
Mitro Repo admits straight that he cannot be bothered to worry about his own campaigning - at least not yet.
”So far, there are no funds, but hopefully human capital is more abundant”, Father Mitro noted.
In addition to the Orthodox priest Mitro Repo, Lempäälä resident Tuula Petäkoski-Hult, 53, a senior research scientist at the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT), and Ahmed Al Chibibi, 23, an Iraqi-born entrepreneur from Turku, were announced last week to complete the Social Democratic party's list of 20 European Parliament candidates.
SDP party secretary Ari Korhonen acknowledged that Al Chibibi was "a so-called immigration candidate".
THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS will be organised on Sunday June 7th 2009. For further information, see the link below.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 17.4.2009
More on this subject:
WHO? Celebrity pastor dealing out blessings
Previously in HS International Edition:
Orthodox pastor Father Mitro blesses winter swimming hole in Helsinki (23.1.2006)
Parties eye leading politicians for European Parliament elections next year (1.8.2008)
Ministry of Justice: European Parliament Elections 2009
The Finnish Orthodox Church
PIIA ELONEN / Helsingin Sanomat