That the World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting went on as scheduled in Heraklion, Crete, last month despite the coup in Greece was a triumph for the new regime and a setback for left-wing elements within the WCC itself. A considerable amount of lobbying and ecumenical backstairs discussion had followed the April 21 military takeover, but so keen was the junta to welcome this assembly that it agreed readily to two conditions: no restriction on visas for those from Communist countries, and no censorship on reports emanating from the meeting.

Then came a bonanza for the government when influential Orthodox sources brilliantly contrived to turn the Heraklion meeting even more to advantage. They approached the young King Constantine, obtained his consent, and, so far as can be ascertained, presented the Central Committee with un fait accompli: Constantine, they said, had graciously agreed to appear at the opening. New luster was thus added to the colonels’ day. After the WCC appearance he left for his visit to the U.S. and Canada.

On the first appearance of a Greek monarch in Crete for many years, Constantine got a terrific welcome from the people—though, ironically, some were applauding the king under the impression that they were thereby heckling the government in the only way left to them. Nevertheless, it was game, set, and match in favor of the junta, which combines sporadic shrewdness with incredible naiveté.

Toward its own religious constituency the government displays more of the iron hand. It may have abandoned its initial absurdities about compulsory churchgoing, but there is still a weighty element in the cabinet that tends toward strict Orthodoxy. One of the slogans of the new regime is professed adherence ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.