Letter in the Press on Vatopaidi Monastery
14 Ιανουαρίου, 2010
By Olga Konaris Kokkinos
Everyone knows that when one is deliberately ignoring certain facts, one is equally guilty as if had he been falsifying them. And this is true of the press.
In the last twenty days, Cypriot papers have been isolating some quotations from a certain book written by Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi regarding the virtue of obedience, and gave the false impression that “Geronda”, or elder, tried to take the position of Jesus in the monasteries, and that Jesus Himself is nowhere to be found! They also implied that, when Elder Efraim [current abbot of Vatopaidi] travels outside Mount Athos, carrying with him the Hagia Zoni [Holy Belt] of our Lady for people to venerate, he does so in order to promote his image as “The” elder and that any donations offered by the faithful are misappropriated by the monastery.
First of all, the miraculous Hagia Zoni belongs to the faithful who have the right to venerate it and pay their respects as often as possible. The elders, or abbots, knowing they have this duty towards God and His people, leave Mount Athos and their peace, come out into the world to offer the Hagia Zoni or any other precious object to display, so that the faithful will be blessed. Innumerable miracles are also performed. A book detailing the many miracles which are performed by the Hagia Zoni in Cyprus and Greece has already been published and a second book is on the line. These books are offered to people for free.
Secondly, any offerings which are given by the people remain in the churches in which these holy objects are displayed and are not misappropriated by the monasteries.
Thirdly, if one questions whether it is appropriate for the abbot to accompany these objects when they leave Mount Athos, one only has to think how carefully one would look after his own children or his own property or any other precious things he owns and he will recognize that this attention is more than due.
Fourthly, people are hungry for the true word of God and have an unmistaken sense of who conveys this word, and it is they themselves who offer respect and honor to the one they think as worthy of this respect and honor, and thus call him “ Geronda”.
People are also under the impression that the monies collected by the church or the monasteries are kept in a closet and the abbots or the bishops keep counting them all the time and carry out businesses to increase their value. No one knows about the charity that is given out or the works that are carried out or the material or other help that many destitute people and their families, even whole parishes, receive from the monasteries and the Church because charity is by definition a secret deed. This is true of Vatopaidi Monastery and its metohi, especially the one in Porto Lagos, in Xanthi, which lies by the Visthonida Lake, where “the fuss is all about”….
As blessed Elder Paisios was saying: “Let’s not look for the smallest dirt to sit on like the flies, but let’s look for the flowers to harvest the pollen like the bees do."
Let us all, then, wait until the truth shines, rather than throw stones against one another and leave our minds open to doubt and suspicion.