Martyr Bishop of Methoni
Gregory Papatheodoros was born in 1770 in the village of Albaina (Olympia) to the parents of Theodoros Papatheodoros and Anastasia. His early education began in his home village, but he pursued further studies at the Monastery of Vytina, which was widely known for its rich and diverse library. As well as his academic interests, Gregory had a passion for languages. He was fluent in Turkish, Arabic, French, Italian and of course Greek. However, his passion and calling centred around his faith and community.
At the age of 30, Gregory embraced a path of service in the Church. With steadfast faith and devotion, Gregory quickly climbed through the ranks of priesthood. In 1800, he was ordained a Deacon and was later elevated to the position of Presbyter and Chancellor. His significant role as the Bishop of Methoni, Navarino, and Neokastro transpired between 1816-25, by Patriarch Cyril VI of Constantinople.
In 1817, Gregory embarked on a crucial journey to Russia, where he fervently advocated for Greek independence before the tsar, sharing the harrowing tales of the oppressed Greeks under Turkish rule. Having successfully received Russian support, Gregory returned to Methoni where he later joined the Friendly Society (a secret political and revolutionary organization founded in 1814 whose sole purpose was to overthrow the Ottoman rule of Greece and establish an independent Greek State). His growing reputation, admiration and respect saw him actively recruit more than 150 fellow patriots into the Friendly Society. This played a key role in the Greek Revolution of 1821, leading military actions that resulted in the successful sieges of Methoni and Neokastro. With a defiant army, the Turkish forces were forced to hand over the keys to the castle of Methoni to the general commander, Bishop Gregory.
However, the climax of Bishop Gregory´s sacrifice unfolded in 1825 when Ibrahim's (pasha of Egypt) forces besieged Methoni castle from both land and sea. Despite a valiant defense, Gregory was captured and imprisoned in a dark dungeon in the castle of Methoni, marking the beginning of a six-month martyrdom characterized by imprisonment, torture, and persecution. Refusing to renounce his faith, Bishop Gregory breathed his last on October 22nd, 1825. Brutally, the Turks threw his body into the sea, but was miraculously found, retrieved and honorably buried in Odessa. Today, the Diocese of Messinia commemorates Bishop Gregory´s legacy with a statue at the site of his martyrdom in Methoni. On June 29, 1960, the Metropolitan of Messinia unveiled his statue and delivered a poignant speech, paying tribute to the courageous and resilient martyr.
Statue of Bishop Gregory located in Methoni