Greek Orthodox Deacon Traffics Fake Relics

As I have noted here previously, relics are still for sale in our day. The idolatrous veneration of bones, teeth, hair and paintings lends itself to the unscrupulous preying on the gullible. In this case, a Greek Orthodox deacon assisted a Swiss man in trying to pass off “normal” bones as the bones of saints.:

Police in the northern city of Thessaloniki arrested 43-year-old Swiss Stephan Meyer, an electrician from Zurich, after airport security found 197 human bones and three skulls in the man’s luggage as he tried to board a flight from Thessaloniki to Germany.

Mayer was due to pass the bones onto a representative from the Russian Orthodox Church in Germany, pretending that the bones were from the skeletons of Orthodox saints.

Police also arrested Meyer’s accomplice, a 24-year-old deacon from the diocese in Sidirokastro near the Bulgarian border, after they discovered 505 human bones and 15 skulls at his home.

The bones that had been cleaned were also labelled with various names of saints.

Both men were in custody in Thessaloniki and will face the city court Tuesday charged with theft, trafficking and profanation.

Of course this begs the question regarding if they had succeeded. Orthodox folks would have been “venerating” the bones of who knows who…makes you wonder if this happens anyway?
UPDATE: This article adds details:
the items were meant to be delivered – i.e. sold – to a Russian Orthodox priest presently living in Germany. It seems that the Greek and Swiss accomplices tried to sell the items as genuine relics of deceased saints. Some items had name-tags such as St Andrew, St Dimitris and St Basil, and all of the skulls and bones had been doused in incense-like fragrances.
As of now it is unknown whether or not the receiver was to be deceived, who planned to take the ‘relics’ to India in order to start a new church, or if he perhaps knew that it was all faked and wanted to deceive his future parishioners with some ancient relics from Christian lands. Among the items found by police were also two nails labeled ‘Holy Nails of Jesus,’ apparently an attempt to pass them off as nails used during the crucifixion.
UPDATE 2: [source]
A search of the deacon’s home on Monday by Thessaloniki Security police turned up 10 narcotic pills, 505 bones and 15 skulls on which names of saints were written, as well as a 19th century Byzantine icon, a 19th century Byzantine cross, two Byzantine rings, and five ancient and Byzantine coins which are protected under antiquities laws.

Catholic Idolatry

Mark Horne has a helpful post on why he is not a Roman Catholic. An excerpt:

  1. Idolatry is a huge sin and praying through icons (whether 3d or 2d) is idolatry.  I cannot possibly engage in such a practice, allow anyone in my guardianship to do so, or excuse such a thing, without falling into rank unbelief.
  2. Necromancy is almost as huge a sin and praying to the departed saints is necromancy.  See #1 above.  People raised thinking bigamy is Christian may be true Christians, but people who know better are living in sin and without hope of eternal life unless they repent of such behavior.
  3. The way some Roman Catholic constituencies provide ministry opportunities for defectors from Protestantism is, of course, tempting–but it can hardly count as anything more than thirty pieces of silver if #1 and #2 hold.  If one must be marginalized and impoverished in the Protestant world due to sectarian sins, well, God has called many Christians and their families to far worse martyrdoms.
  4. Claiming unity can be achieved by everyone else joining one’s own denomination is exactly the sect spirit that is so loathsome in many Protestant groups, and it gains no more attractiveness in Rome.

While Mark’s honesty will offend many who justify idolatry by appealing to John of Damascus, we have an opposite example in the Internet Monk’s interview with Bryan Cross, someone who has made that plunge into idolatry. I don’t know why these issues are never raised in these ecumenical interviews. Many Protestants still seem to assume that justification is the core issue between us and Rome, while in fact idolatry is and always has been one of the central concerns of the Reformation, if one that is often ignored today.

Nowell on Idolatry

Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shew mercy unto thousands in them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

M. What is the meaning of these words?

S. As in the first commandment he commandeth that himself alone be honoured and worshipped, so in this commandment he restraineth us from all superstition, and from all wrongful and bodily inventions, forasmuch as the worshipping of him ought to be spiritual and pure; and chiefly he frayeth us from the most gross fault of outward idolatry.

M. It may seem then that this law wholly condemneth the arts of painting and portraiture, so that it is not lawful to have any images made at all.

S. Not so. But he first forbiddeth us to make any images, to express or couterfeit God or to worship him withal; and secondly he chargeth us not to worship the images themselves.

M. Why is it not lawful to express God with a bodily and visible form?

S. Because there can be no likeness or agreeing between God, which is a Spirit eternal, unmeasurable, infinite, incomprehensible, severed from all mortal composition—and a frail, bodily, silly, spiritless, and vain shape. Therefore they do most injuriously abate the majesty of the most good and most great God, when they go about in such sort to make resemblance of him.

M. Have not they then said well, which affirm that images are unlearned men’s books?

S. I know not what manner of books they be; but surely, concerning God, they can teach us nothing but errors.

M. What manner of worshipping is that which is here condemned?

S. When we, intending to pray, do turn ourselves to portraitures or images; when we do fall down and kneel before them with uncovering our heads, or with other signs shewing any honour unto them, as if God were represented unto us by them; briefly, we are in this law forbidden, that we neither seek nor worship God in images, or, which is all one, that we worship not the images themselves in honour of God, nor in any wise by idolatry or superstition abuse them with injury to his majesty. Otherwise the lawful use of making portraitures and of painting is not forbidden.

M. By this that thou tellest me, it may easily be gathered, that it is very perilous to set any images or pictures in churches, which are properly appointed for the only worshipping of God.

S. That that is true we have had already too much experience, by the decay in a manner of whole religion.

From A Catechism Written in Latin by Alexander Nowell, Dean of St. Paul’s Translated into English by Thomas Norton