Sunday, April 5, 2015

St Panagiotis the Peloponnesian

St Panagiotis the Peloponnesian is a Neomartyr of the Orthodox Church. Despite being from the Peloponnese (Southern Greece), he actually lived in Magnesia, in Asia Minor, as a slave of the Duke Suleiman Pasha. Menawhile, the Duke was appointed by the Sultand as Duke of Damascus. One day the Duke sent his chief secretary to Jerusalem for some official matters and naturally his slave followed him.
Before returning to Damascus, the chief secretary wished to pray at Omar’s Mosque, built on the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Solomon. St Panagiotis followed him, walked into the Mosque with his master’s shoes. He did not pray at the mosque, he was merely starring.

According to a law, which existed at that time, only Muslims were permitted to enter the mosque, and that if a heterodox entered in the courtyard, or in the mosque building he would become Muslim or would be killed.
The chief secretary, after his pilgrimage, left for Damascus and the saint stayed in Jerusalem because in the meantime Holy Week was commencing. Another of the chief secretary’s slaves, who envied the saint, suggested to the saint to go to the mosque again and he went, unsuspectingly. So, the slave convinced the other Muslims, Turks and Arabs to ask the Duke to enforce the law. 
Indeed, then the Duke went for his pilgrimage to Omar’s mosque, they reported the case and they requested the enforcement of the law. The Duke immediately ordered to capture the young slave and to take him to the judge.
Without knowing the case, the saint was arrested the moment he left the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on April 5th. Tied up, he was taken to the judge. There he was introduced to a dilemma, to either become a Muslim or to be killed. St Panagiotis, however, professed his faith to Jesus Christ, as the Son of God. With a loud voice he confessed to the Pasha that he preferred to die a thousand times than to change his faith, despising the multitude of gifts which they promised him.
Immediately the judge ruled against the slave. The soldiers led him to the Holy Monastery of St John the Baptist, near the Gate of David, trying en route, repeatedly, to change his mind, and make him convert to Islam. Observing that the saint was not altering his mind, they strapped him of his clothes; they broke his arm and cut of his other hand’s fingers. However, the saint remained undaunted, claiming:
‘I am not afraid of you, I am a Christian, Christ is Risen’.
He fell on his knees, he prayed, stood up and proclaimed: ‘Christ is Risen’.
The executioner began to hit him with his sword on his neck, in order to scare him, but to no avail. St Panagiotis was repeating his confession, and with one last ‘Christ is Risen’ he was beheaded. The saint was 25 years old.

His martyrdom was observed by Protestant missionary Joseph Wolff, who described the event in a letter, preserving the information that the Patriarchate paid 500 grossia in order to receive the holy relics for burial. In the evening of the same day, his holy relics were buried by the Fathers of the Holy Sepulchre and other Christians. The holy relics of the Neomartyr saint were buried in the cemetery of Mount Zion.  

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