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Greek town ritually burned Judas as Orthodox celebrated Easter

People on a boat hold flares as they sail behind the effigy of Judas during the revival of an old Easter tradition of the "burning of the Judas", in the port town of Ermioni, in the Peloponnese peninsula, southwest of Athens, Greece, on April 8, 2018. The tradition, which dates back several centuries and was observed throughout Greece, is a symbolic punishment of treason and avarice, the qualities associated with Judas, the disciple of Christ who accepted a monetary reward to betray his teacher. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ERMIONI, Greece (AP) — As Orthodox Christians around the world celebrated Easter on Sunday, a town on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula observed the holy day by burning an effigy of Judas at sea.

The ritual burning of Judas is a custom also observed by Roman Catholics in parts of Latin America as a symbolic punishment for Judas’ betrayal of Christ for a monetary reward.

The tradition dates back centuries in some places. In the Greek town of Ermioni, it has been observed the past 25 years.

About 20 small boats circled around a raft bearing a wire model of Judas that floated off Ermioni and then the figure was set ablaze. More than 1,000 locals and visitors watched from shore and also listened to music and saw a laser show.

In older times, the Judas effigy was made of straw. Sometimes, topical variations on the theme are introduced. In at least two villages in Crete this year, the Judas figure was made to resemble Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A darker side of the custom is an implied hostility in some cases toward Jews as the “killers of Christ.”

The tradition even led to an international incident in mid-19th century Greece.

Worried about offending James de Rothschild, founder of the French branch of the famous Jewish banking family who was in Greece to negotiate a loan, the government banned the burning of Judas in Athens in 1847. An outraged mob then ransacked the house of a Jew who was a British subject.

Britain demanded restitution equal to a sizeable percentage of the Greek budget. The Greek government refused, and Britain imposed a naval blockade in 1850. France and Russia took Greece’s side and the British lifted their blockade after six months. A restitution agreement was reached the following year.

Orthodox Easter came a week later than the holiday this year for Western-based Christian churches, with significant observances in Russia, Greece, Ukraine, Serbia and Kosovo.

About 4.3 million people took part in event, the Interior Ministry said. President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended Easter services at Christ the Savior Cathedral, Moscow’s largest church.

In Kiev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attended Easter services at the Volodymyrskiy Monastery.

Serbia celebrated the day in a highly charged atmosphere over Kosovo, the former Serbian province whose predominantly Muslim, ethnic Albanian people declared independence a decade ago.

Kosovo is considered by Serbian nationalists to be the cradle of the Balkan nation’s statehood and religion. On the eve of Easter, Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej urged political leaders never to accept Kosovo’s independence, even if the price is abandoning the country’s proclaimed goal of joining the European Union.

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Associated Press writer Petros Giannakouris reported this story in Ermioni and AP writer Demetris Nellas reported from Athens, Grece.

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9 Comments

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  • Judas obviously made his decision to follow satan on that issue, but how many of us also have?
    I don’t support Judas, but as we all know, he will meet Christ face to face again.

  • Misplaced upset with Judas. He wasn’t a traitor, Judas was a patsy for god’s plan. No Judas, no “betrayal” of jesus, no death and resurrection.

  • The story of Judas makes me sad rather than angry. Jesus would have been as glad to forgive and restore him as He was to welcome back Peter. Why he wouldn’t simply come back in repentance rather than killing himself, no one knows but him.

  • I know. We were watching the play the other night and I was a little upset that they favoured Judas so much, but, like the rest of us, he did sin also. I think it would be absolutely so horrible – for lack of a better word – than to think you had sinned so badly that Christ wouldn’t forgive you!
    Matthew 26:24 – English Standard Version
    The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
    I don’t think I want to understand the full extent of that scripture this side of Heaven. I’m satisfied with knowing Christ hates sin.
    I think it’s all rather frightening.

  • “Judas” = “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan”? = “Jews”? = “James de Rothschild”?

    According to Oxford University Dictionary, “a Judas [means] a person who betrays a friend or comrade.” Cambridge University Dictionary has him as “a person who is not loyal to a friend and helps the friend’s enemies”.

    Oh, stupid of me, you mean the guy in this story?

    “Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Jesus to them. They were glad and agreed to give him money. So he consented, and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the crowd. … Now, while Jesus was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?'”

    Source: Luke 22:3-6, 47-48.

  • Gotta insert this Fun Addendum after reading what Ben in Oakland, sandinwindsor & Shawnie5 had to say:

    To feel sorry for Judas Iscariot is to feel sorry for Lucifer Satan.

    To figure out Judas is to figure out the Devil.

    For, as the Betrayed One put it, “It would have been better for Judas if he had not been born.” If only Satan had never existed at all. Jesus’ very own greatest regret right there, folks!

    Now we know what it must’ve been like for God to have created the pre-Flood civilization, but only to regret it in the end.

  • The notion that Jesus’ graciousness ended when Judas died is contrary to EVERYTHING else about Jesus.

  • I think this is bogus and was inserted into the Bible to fulfill a Hebrew scripture. I would guess Jesus was well known to the lead scribes and Pharisees and they could grab him anytime without help from Judas. Nonsense anyway.

  • The whole idea of suicide for Judas doesn’t make any sense, especially as the accounts of his death vary. Why would he? If he knew Jesus was God, he wouldn’t have betrayed him. And if Jesus was just another failed messiah, why would he feel so much remorse that he would kill himself? And as you point out, why would Judas have to point out Jesus to anyone, since it appears Jesus was well known to the authorities?

    Or is Judas just a collective name for “the Jews?”

    Of course, the bible Couldn’t say “he lived happily ever after.” That wouldn’t fit the narrative or dramatic needs of the story.

    Ken Spam’s answer is the best: “Some people have wrongly assumed that Matthew and Luke (the author of Acts) are contradictory in their account of Judas’ death. Since the Bible is inerrant Judas cannot have died by hanging…”

    Well, that problem is solved!!!!

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