Saturday, August 24, 2019

Are the Prophecies of Saint Kosmas the Aitolos Authentic? The True Story

By John Sanidopoulos

It was the winter of 1941. Greece was embroiled in a war with Italy. The Italian army had invaded Greece on 28 October 1940, before the Italian ultimatum had expired. The invasion was a disaster, the 140,000 troops of the Italian Army in Albania encountering an entrenched and determined enemy. The Italians had to contend with the mountainous terrain on the Albanian–Greek border and unexpectedly tenacious resistance by the Greek Army. By mid-November, the Greeks had stopped the Italian invasion just inside Greek territory. After completing their mobilization, the Greeks counter-attacked with the bulk of their army and pushed the Italians back into Albania – an advance which culminated in the Capture of Klisura Pass in January 1941, a few dozen kilometers inside the Albanian border. The defeat of the Italian invasion and the Greek counter-offensive of 1940 have been called the "first Axis setback of the entire war" by historian Mark Mazower, the Greeks "surprising everyone with the tenacity of their resistance."

On the 5th of February 1941, in the village of Progonat in Albania, soldiers from the Greek army who were from the telephone service took up residence in a poor Albanian home. Two of them were a Second Lieutenant from Aitolia and a Corporal from North Epirus and they were both teachers by profession. While in this poor Albanian home that night, they noticed an old book, which their Albanian host explained was a Koran written in the old Turkish language on the left side of the page while on the right side it was translated into Albanian. What especially caught their eye was that on the last pages of this volume there was written in pencil in the Albanian language seventy-two numbered paragraphs, which their Albanian host explained were the prophecies of "Papa-Kosma!" Upon hearing this, the Second Lieutenant was especially excited by this discovery, since he was from Aitolia and was familiar with Saint Kosmas. He therefore grabbed a pen and paper, and with permission from their Albanian host, he began to write the prophecies they discovered in the book, which were translated for him into Greek by the Corporal who knew Albanian and Greek.

The name of the Albanian host who owned the book with the prophecies was Ferat Zoles. The Corporal's name who translated the text was Thomas Anastasiou from Leskoviki, a graduate of the school in Vella, which is north of Ioannina in Greece. The name of the Second Lieutenant was Nikos I. Tsakalozos, a retired school teacher from Mastro in Messolonghi. The latter gave a copy of the prophecies to the philologist K.S. Konstas (1911-1987), who wrote an introduction to the text and published the seventy-two prophecies in 1956 in the periodical Epeirotiki Estia, though in a different more consistent order. Upon researching the prophecies, he discovered some had been published in Greek books about Saint Kosmas and periodicals before, such as in the periodicals Parnasos in 1884 and Boreios Epeiros in 1936. The great majority of them however were brought to light for the first time by the Greek soldiers.

K.S. Konstas

With these prophecies now made public, researchers began to uncover more. For example, Harilaos Tsogas from Epirus discovered fourteen new prophecies at the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki. Some began to be recorded also from villagers who had received these prophecies orally from their parents and grandparents and great grandparents. It was Metropolitan Augoustinos Kantiotes of Florina who gathered together all of these prophecies and published them in 1959 in his book titled Kosmas the Aitolos. The total number of prophecies he published were one hundred and twenty-two. Only one can possibly be verified, having come from Saint Kosmas' first biographer who also composed his Divine Office, Sapfeiros Christodoulides, who recorded in 1814 a prophecy Saint Kosmas allegedly made to Ali Pasha when they met for the first time, when Ali Pasha was a child. Saint Kosmas himself never wrote any prophecies. His earliest biography does not speak about him making all these prophecies. They were supposedly handed down initially by word of mouth then written down here and there.

With this being said, can we be sure the prophecies ascribed to Saint Kosmas the Aitolos are authentic? No. However, they may indeed be authentic, but we cannot verify for sure. These prophecies are the result of oral tradition handed down from one generation to the next before being recorded. They are ascribed to Saint Kosmas, but we can't even know for sure if they came from him. Many prophecies were being circulated during the years of the Turkish occupation going all the way back to Byzantine times. The enslaved Greek people looked for hope in the future. Most knew of Saint Kosmas and held him up to be a great Saint, since he preached and built schools in their villages. For all we know, they may have gathered these prophecies and ascribed them to the holiest person they knew about that came to their village. We know that similar prophecies are ascribed to Saint Joachim of Ithaca by the people of Ithaca, because the holiest person they knew about most recently from Ithaca was Saint Joachim. We can only speculate.