The Truth About the Issue of the Occupation of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou
August 11, 2011
Issued By the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain of Athos
The Sacred Land of Athos is by its nature and its destination, a land which is suited to remain away from the lights of secular publicity, a place of introversion, quietness, contemplation and prayer, where the soul meets God in private.
Unfortunately, the Holy Community of Mount Athos lately has been in the unpleasant position to watch with grief of heart the turbulence of journalism and other noise, which have arisen by the illegal occupiers of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, by abolishing the calm of the Land and exposing it to secular lights, but mostly in secular perceptions, the traditional mystagogical and spiritual life, in a profane way. The Holy Community guarded silence for a long time, in order not to give cause and continuity in the same incompatible tactic, and also not to scandalize the simple people, by denouncing improprieties committed, as was not obligated, in a Sacred Land.
We pray night and day and we have a quiet conscience and the deepest faith, that sooner or later the All-Good God and the Governor of this Sacred Land, the Most Holy Theotokos, will restore the truth and that Mount Athos will come out strong from this concrete long road, as it happened in so many critical moments in its history. However, for reasons of conscience, with a lot of circumspection and totally in exception, we judged advisable to publish the present text, so that we provide a sober and responsible tool in every well-disposed person, for informing and making known the truth, but also for rejecting the expansion of the scandal that has been hurled against Mount Athos and its over one thousand year tradition.
1. The Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou
The Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou is one of the twenty sovereign Royal, Patriarchal and Stavropegic (under the Patriarch's jurisdiction) Monasteries of Mount Athos with a great history from Byzantine times until today, having indeed brought to light great saints of our Church and other significant figures - a true boast of the Holy State. Until a few decades ago it was famous as one of the better, stricter and traditional monasteries of Mount Athos.
It must be noted that a sovereign Monastery of Mount Athos, besides being a place for monks to practice asceticism, has full elevated rights and obligations that were given to it precisely in order to be protected through the centuries for the undisturbed asceticism of monks in it. It constitutes therefore as a Legal Entity with the Public Right to practice and exercise public authority and enjoy multiple privileges and advantages, which derive from the special status of Mount Athos, while it is charged also with proportional spiritual and administrative responsibilities.
Today, the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, by the actions of the persons who occupy it, has dwindled in an unprecedented dramatic situation in its history, i.e. in essence it has devolved now into the order of a Kellion, because it does not actualize the responsibilities and the competences of a sovereign Monastery of Mount Athos, while the legal Entity of the Monastery does not function, having devolved into the condition of non-existence. The Brotherhood of the Monastery henceforth does not exist. The buildings of the Monastery are being occupied illegally by a group of persons, who by ownership are not monks of Mount Athos, and they commit a usurpation of authority and also a number of other penal offences. How this happened, we will explain immediately below. We only want to point out that this situation, apart from the damage to the Monastery, constitutes also a more serious threat against Mount Athos itself.
2. Fundamental principles of the substance of Mount Athos
It is the common conscience of the monks of Mount Athos, but also of historical and legal science, that Mount Athos owes a great part of its survival and existence through twelve centuries to the providence of the Most Holy Theotokos to dower it also with the special status of self-government, which is united for the entire peninsula, so as to be able to speak of a "Holy Mountain" and not simply of certain Monasteries. This is the difference, the uniqueness and the advantage in relation with other very appreciable monastic centers, as for example that of Meteora, or in the old days of Olympus of Bithynia. Thus, the fundamental constitutive significance of our Monastic Center is the principle of the ecclesiastical and administrative unit and communication of all the Monasteries of Mount Athos.
Specifically, the ecclesiastical unity and society is described with the common inclusion under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under maximum supervision of which takes place the precise fulfillment of the arrangements of Mount Athos in the spiritual part, while it is not allowed to commemorate any other name than the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The sovereign Monasteries must have complete ecclesiastical communion between each other and to participate in common ceremonies and assemblages of worship.
The administrative unity and communion is described with the obligatory attendance of the sovereign Monasteries in the common administrative bodies (Holy Community, Holy Supervision, etc) and compliance to the orders of the Constitutional Charter of Mount Athos (henceforth C.C.M.A.) for the relations between the Holy Community and the Holy Monasteries and to the decisions and the rules that vote the competent common bodies.
It is a united religious Community, in which they participate as permanent members those who are included freely in this and live and act in complete communion with the rest. Any person of course has the right to religious freedom, and the right to not accept communion with the other members of the Community, but these sincere and honest ones are to abandon freely the Community. Thus, in the case of Mount Athos, in order to be protected as an entirely Orthodox monastic character, the Constitution and the C.C.M.A. prohibit the living there of heterodox or schismatic persons. Having in mind the above, every one can understand that in Mount Athos there does not exist, with the meaning under which has been in effect for those who live in the rest of the territory of Greece, religious tolerance or individualized religious freedom, but rather it is protected absolutely with the religious freedom of Mount Athos as a whole, i.e. its right to constitute a united religious Community with a concrete united way of acting its religion.
The rupture of the unity (ecclesiastical and administrative) of Mount Athos is unthinkable for the status of Mount Athos, because it causes a complete complication in its institutional function and it also offends its substance. The issue has most serious institutional, spiritual, ecclesiastical, and also national dimensions, because if it will become acceptable, the possibility of a Monastery to lose contact from the others for reasons that it unilaterally invokes, then legitimately others could invoke reasons of faith, conscience, nation, etc, to cut off contact with the Monasteries and to adhere undisturbed in other ecclesiastical or national jurisdictions, with destructive consequences for Mount Athos, the Church, and the territorial sovereignty of our country. For this reason any alteration is totally prohibited by the Constitution and the C.C.M.A. of the number of the twenty sovereign Holy Monasteries of Mount Athos.
3. Brief background of historical facts
In the early 1970's a disturbance was caused in Mount Athos because of the ecumenical "openness" of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Among the other protests there was applied also the temporary interruption of commemorating the name of the then Ecumenical Patriarch from a number of Holy Monasteries, without however any one of them cutting themselves off from the ecclesiastical communion with the other sovereign Monasteries and the Orthodox Church, nor of course to adhere in another ecclesiastical jurisdiction; a situation that is, as we said, absolutely prohibited. A unique negative exception at that time constituted unfortunately the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, in which at that time entered from the outside world persons, strange to the beliefs of Mount Athos, who imposed their opinions. The result was the Monastery proceeding towards its being cut off from the body of Mount Athos, an illogical and impermissible action for the over one thousand year status of Mount Athos.
Thus, apart from its simple interruption of the commemoration of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Monastery interrupted since then and until today ecclesiastical communion with all the other Monasteries of Mount Athos and all the Orthodox Churches, while it went over to a complete and exclusive ecclesiastical communion with one of the parties of the so-called G.O.C. (Genuine Orthodox Church, i.e. the schismatic followers of the Julian Calendar), which, it is noteworthy, the groups do not have ecclesiastical communion between them either. Since then until today this Monastery does not accept for one to live there unless they accept ecclesiastical communion exclusively and only with this group, while the rest are persecuted. Therefore this cutting off was expressed in 1972 with the refusal of the Representative of the Monastery to participate in the common ceremonies in the Holy Temple of Protaton, and even in the small simple and humble prayer of the Representatives before the opening of the meetings of the Holy Community. After the repeated ascertainment of the above the Holy Community, as a first measure, sent away temporarily the Representative, requesting and expecting the return of the Monastery into the regular order. This return did not take place however, but rather the cutting off became definite, and not only the ecclesiastical, but also the administrative. The Monastery, despite all the repeated invitations of the Holy Community, did not dispatch until this day a Representative (apart from one Ε.Δ.Ι.Σ. -Extraordinary Double Holy Assemblage- in 1973) or a Supervisor, did not participate in any common activity, but also did not allow the exercise of the powers of the Holy Community there.
In an attempt to curb the destructive course of the Monastery, the Holy Community proceeded from 1974 in the decision to deport the Abbot and the Supervisors of the Monastery, who since then have lost their capacity as monks of Mount Athos. These despised the decisions of the Holy Community (a tactic that was established unswervingly since then until today) and they continued to proceed in actions of administration and management of the Monastery. Since then the administration of the Monastery entered into a status of illegality and Mount Athos did not ever recognize this administration, considering any of its actions insubstantial. By this status of illegality, they had also two elections of "abbots" in 1975 and in 1999 that were naturally not recognized ever by Mount Athos. Also, because of the absence of administration of the Monastery according to the C.C.M.A., they had illegal and insubstantial tonsurings of new monks after the repose of old regular monks that do not exist anymore as a part of the brotherhood of the Monastery, but are only a group of persons that occupy the buildings of the Monastery and it constitutes all the characteristics of a "special brotherhood", which is prohibited indefinitely by the C.C.M.A. (art. 183), and they deal also assiduously with the attracting of others into their belief, something that also is prohibited (art. 184). Consequently, these have the complete characteristics of schismatics, something that is absolutely prohibited by the Constitution of the country (art. 105) and the C.C.M.A. (art. 5).
At the same time, the same persons do not allow the control of the buildings and the heirlooms of the Monastery by the authorities in charge, denying in some way the sovereignty of the Greek State and the force of the relative legislative provisions, but also they do not allow the exercise of the supervision of the Holy Community on the hierlooms, in violation of the relative provisions. Simultaneously, they proceed in actions of management of the movable and immovable property of the Monastery's fortune, although are absent from the legal bodies according to the C.C.M.A., committing a usurpation of power and the relevant offences.
For thirty years Mount Athos did not recognize ever their illegality, because it was showing tolerance, with the hope of their return to the canonical order of Mount Athos, by not ever practicing violence against them, but rather by serving with a philanthropy their needs as individuals, something for which finally it was returned with a bitter ungratefulness. There were also innumerable efforts of approach from the side of Mount Athos, but also from the side of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but without a result.
At this time there is a troublesome and hidden purposefulness that is an exploitation of the demonstrated lenience of Mount Athos's monks, in order to gain the recognition and the legalization of their illegal situation. This appeared particularly on the subject of the collection of the annual economic sponsoring all these years with the objective of legalization, but particularly since 1996, when they achieved its retrospective collection, until recently (question to the Legal Council of State in 2002). Therefore roughly since 1995 is observed a support of this tendency, which climaxes after the appointment as their leader of the new "Abbot" Methodios in 1999, when it became clear that there was not any hope of return to the canonical order of Mount Athos, but henceforth expressly supported the claim of recognition, something that destroyed definitely every approach and dialogue. It is characteristic that the last meeting of the committee of the Holy Community with the representatives of the occupied Monastery was the one in which the above Father Methodios did not arrive, giving the command to his representatives to transfer arrogantly on behalf of him, that in order to come into a discussion, he required to be addressed to him an official document either of the Holy Community or of the Administration of Mount Athos, in which he will be addressed as "Archimandrite" and "Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou". This was the final interruption of any effort of communication.
The Holy Community was forced, in order to protect the Holy Institution of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, and also the status of Mount Athos, to not provide at these times things that are not eligible legally, in order to not be used by them as indirect recognition. Since then begins by them a characteristic ungratefulness and an organized tactic of the alteration of reality, while the persons inside the Monastery report deliberately of fantastic "hard measures" and they present the Holy Community as an executioner and themselves as martyrs, inviting indeed a reaction of their friends and their supporters, who create also periodically proportional disturbances.
4. Recent actions
After the ascertainment of the final refusal to return and the complete orientation towards the direction of the axiomatic claim of recognition, Mount Athos, taking into consideration the love for the God and humanity, felt that its history and its mission was to attend with affection and a lot of pain both its own Holy State, and more specifically the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, its flesh from its flesh, and also for the recovery and mental salvation of those possessing it, via the evidence of their delusional course. It was forced therefore also to turn in its own precautious legal consolidation and proceeded in careful corresponding actions, having as its unique hope for a peaceful and smooth resolution of the problem and the avoidance of an undesirable violent imposition of the law and the awareness by all of its illegality, and also of the real serious religious and national dimensions of the matter.
Thus after a deep study of the subject and the development of a complete report, which has been worked out by a most extensive consultative study of eminent lawyers, there were taken with gravity and prudence the decisions of the Extraordinary Double Holy Assemblage and continually were undertaken the necessary legal processes for the making of those decisions that is scheduled by the Constitution and the C.C.M.A., in order to produce the legal results that will stop every claim against Mount Athos.
Then in November of 2002 there were dispatched personal calls with a juridical commissary to each one of the members of "brotherhood", in order to be given to them the right of a hearing. They completely unjustifiably did not seize the opportunity to develop their views and to come into elementary formal communications with the Monasteries through their Representatives, they closed the gates of the Monastery, they refused to attend before the Holy Community, and instead they dispatched facsimiled extrajudicial answers of a completely improper context. In any case, in this period 24 individuals were distanced from the rest of the group. At the same time a new upsurge of falsehood and misinformation was organized, presenting the appeal to a hearing (that is to say, the benefit of an advantageous right for them) as persecution for the faith, in a way perfectly absurd, blowing incredible slanders and in fact leaking terrorist threats against Mount Athos.
With this they were confirmed as simply unrepentant and this resulted in the final cutting off and the chaotic distance of these persons from the trunk of Mount Athos, but also was realized officially the formation of a prohibited "special brotherhood" that practices also prohibited actions under sentence of deportation, proselytism and propaganda.
At the same time the August Ecumenical Patriarchate, on the basis of the same presented characteristics, confirmed the ascertainment that they are in a schismatic situation, and with a Patriarchal Synodical Decision it declared as schismatics all the members of this prohibited "brotherhood".
Based on all these things, the Holy Community proceeded finally in a thorough administrative action of deportation of the above persons nominally, having clarified in every direction that it does not wish their violent natural removal from the Monastery. The effect of this act is to confirm the non-existence of the brotherhood and administrative organs of the Monastery and all acts of representation, administration and management, and that none of them is entitled to the name and the rights of an Esphigmenou Athonite monk. The above were called to deliver any object of the Monastery that they possess and to leave peacefully from the Monastery in one month, i.e. until January 15/28, 2003. After that, the affair devolved to the jurisdiction of the Administration of Mount Athos, which published the actions of the implementation according to the law.
There was the hope that in this interval it would be perceptible that there was not anymore possibility and no more basis for the continuation of the occupation of the sovereign Monastery from them (something that concerned of course mainly those who have the leadership of the group) and they would conform to the decisions of the supreme authorities of the Holy Place, by going to live together with their like-minded ones wherever elsewhere, while it would search for a solution for those to whom it would not be possible to proceed in such a change of place, for reasons of health, age or other reasons.
5. The absurdity of secularism
Unfortunately, instead they have exploited with a characteristic ungratefulness the long deadline that by philanthropy was provided for them, precisely for the opposite. They plotted without precedent and without any inhibition a campaign against Mount Athos, the Church and the Greek State, in order to tarnish it, and with blackmail to discourage the honest and pure struggle of the fathers of Mount Athos for the benefit of their Holy Place.
Thus using without fear of God, with both fair and unfair means, they provide the modern techniques of manufacturing virtual realities, presenting themselves as victims who are supposedly persecuted for the faith and their religious beliefs, while it is precisely the opposite. Not all the monks of Mount Athos are tyrants and criminals, something that no one thought to say during the centuries long history of the Holy Place and only enemies and adversaries of Mount Athos could think. Through all these things, they confirmed that they don't have the smallest relation with the ethos, the style, the spirit and the history of Mount Athos and the Orthodox Monastic Christian Tradition, and that they are genuine representatives of the secular mindset.
The Greek and international public had the misfortune to watch a without precedent theatrical representation. Showing off themselves as supposedly genuine representatives of Orthodox asceticism they proved themselves to be real secular stars, lavishly spending huge sums of money, devolving daily to secular television and radio stations, seeking publications in newspapers and publications independent of moral or other qualities, organizing interviews with the press in luxurious hotels, creating web pages in the internet, etc, things by which the Monasteries are accused as supposedly secular, which they assiduously should avoid and perhaps they did not think ever to do. The worst however was the context of all this expedition, a blatant production and misleading drain of digestible signals about persecutions on behalf of the faith, etc, while it is not either about persecutions nor about the faith, but it is an open public scorn of the order and provisions of Mount Athos, as we will explain below. The Holy Community kept silence, considering that the answer it will give will be the reality very soon, by not calculating however that they would also reach the point of creating a fictitious reality.
With the expiration of the deadline (January 15/28, 2003) they were shut into the building of the Monastery, with the gates closed already two months prior. They explicitly knew and the written common agreement and engagement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Mount Athos for a violent removal not to be realized, they even knew if the political opposition, that there wouldn't be sufficient police forces, which they had confirmed the previous day in a personal communication with the Governor of Mount Athos, that the policeman would come in order to certify officially the non-evacuation of the Monastery and he would leave immediately, as it has been. And despite this, finding the occasion suitable in order to depict themselves heroes from security, they declared to the ends of the world that it has become an assault to the Monastery, that they are besieged by S.W.A.T and a team of special forces, that they are deprived of the essentials for their survival and other ridiculous and tragic things. They illegally brought into the Monastery television cameras and journalists, in order to become the first in history crying "martyrs of the faith" on a live broadcast, in a fully vain and deplorable secularist fashion, thus ridiculing the sacredness of our faith. They betrayed Mount Athos, Orthodoxy, the ideals of the nation, for fodder to the popularity rating and to the television viewing. They tried to slander our homeland internationally. They resorted to the European (the "Franks" and the "satanic ones" as they said) organs, those who accuse falsely Mount Athos for being european. They resorted to courts with arguments, that if there was a possibility to become accepted, there would be devastating consequences for all of Mount Athos (and for the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou of course). They proceeded in a mass of other actions against the spirit of Mount Athos. They rendered finally obvious that they do not belong in Mount Athos and they are completely foreigners to this place, that is to say they confirmed what was known for many years that by themselves they placed themselves out of Mount Athos in every aspect.
Below we are compelled to give answers to questions that, because of misinformation, have led to scandals occupying the public.
6. Answers to questions
- Is the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou under persecution?
This is doubly misleading. It is not possible to call "persecution" the application of the legal order and particularly in a peaceful way. Also, anything that concerns the illegal occupiers of the buildings of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, it is not possible to be presented that it concerns the Holy Monastery as a spiritual Institution with all its history.
- Is the function of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou threatened by interruption?
It is precisely the opposite. The effort concerns the rescue of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou and in the re-establishment of its operation, which was interrupted by those who illegally occupy it.
- Will a second Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou be created?
This is impossible. The occupiers of the Monastery (natural persons) are not of course the Monastery (legal Person). Provided that the Monastery does not exist as an administration and a brotherhood, Mount Athos is obliged to restore their existence, i.e. to proceed in restoring the brotherhood, which will elect also its legal administration. Obviously, its Seat will be the facilities of the Monastery; while these are under occupation there would be sought provisional solutions that are legitimate with the right of Mount Athos.
- The rationale of the decisions of the Holy Community and the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the denial of the commemoration of the Patriarch?
This is a widespread lie. In the Synodical Patriarchal Decision this is not referred to at all. All the decisions referred to the cutting off of a sovereign Monastery from the ecclesiastical and administrative society of Mount Athos and the Church and the effort of attracting everybody in this practice. It is about a classic case of an ipso jure ascertainment of a schismatic group and a particular prohibited brotherhood. As we have reported, other sovereign Monasteries for reasons of protest interrupted occasionally the commemoration of the Patriarch and they reserve the right to act in the future, however, no one interrupted ecclesiastical communion and got into an ecclesiastical communion with parties outside of the Church.
- What is going on with the other zealots of Mount Athos and in general the so-called followers of the Old Calendar?
The zealots of Mount Athos do not commemorate also and they have interrupted individually ecclesiastical communion, but at least they have attachments and they do not disturb the ecclesiastical and administrative communion of the twenty sovereign Monasteries. Consequently, the treatment of the matter in the region is an internal subject of each of the sovereign Monasteries. The proposal came repeatedly to the persons who are inside the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou to select by themselves and to call whom they want to have an ecclesiastical and administrative communion with the rest of Mount Athos, in order to undertake the administration of the Monastery and to remain without annoyance in their spiritual duties in the Monastery or in attachments, but they did not accept nor discuss it. Now, as it concerns more widely the so-called followers of the Old Calendar, Mount Athos does not have a problem with them, as long as they do not interfere in the matters of Mount Athos, where besides they do not have any authority. Consequently, they do not have any reason for being turned against Mount Athos, carried away by the misleading advice of those who occupy the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou.
- Do the occupiers of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou recognize the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch on Mount Athos?
No they don't, in a straight violation of the Constitution. They claim that they are covered by the statement that they recognize and respect the institution of Patriarchate, but not the Patriarch. It is about a frivolous argument, because the institution of the Patriarchate is recognized and respected by almost all the religions and the states of the world. The subordination in ecclesiastical jurisdiction means particular obligations and, first of all, at least an ecclesiastical communion and all that follows, and they are predicated by the relevant and canonical rules of Mount Athos.
- Those who belong to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, don't they have the right to judge the actions of the Patriarch?
Mount Athos is the first that practices a strict criticism, as the case may be, to the Ecumenical Patriarch, always with respect and sincerity. It is known that the Holy Community repeatedly took positions for matters of faith and stopped actions which are not in agreement with the Orthodox Doctrines and Traditions (e.g. Balamand, the conclusions of the dialogue of the Orthodox with the Anti-Chalcedonians, etc). However, the persons in the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, far away from the expression of objections, reserves and distresses about the ecclesiastical policy of each Head of the Church of Constantinople, deny the status of the Orthodox Church in every Ancient Patriarchate (of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem) and the other Autocephalous Churches, and they fight not in favor of Orthodoxy, as they suppose, but exclusively in favor of the particular party of the so-called followers of the Old Calendar. They recognize, by not tolerating any communion or contact neither with any other of their party, and by projecting this party as the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, with a complete, impermissible and unacceptable ridicule of the meanings of the Uniqueness, the Holiness and the Universality of the Church of Christ, and of the doctrines of our holy faith.
- Are these spiritual matters solved with such ways?
One wonders what is the meaning of the phrase "with such ways"? If what is meant is the exercise of violence, their exclusion has been ruled. If is meant the administrative actions, we clarify that for spiritual matters the Church is responsible, and for the administrative matters the State. Mount Athos is conditioned by a special status of self-government and the public authority, according to the Constitution, is practiced by the Holy Monasteries through the Holy Community, i.e. through the Representatives monks, who are ecclesiastical persons, and they represent spiritual Institutions, therefore spiritual and administrative matters in Mount Athos are in an interrelated connection, while public order and safety belong in the competence of the State through the Governor. In this case all went according to order: the Church proceeded in an ecclesiastical ascertainment, Mount Athos in an ascertainment and administrative decision, the Governor in action of execution. Those are predicted by the one thousand year arrangement of Mount Athos and we are not going to change it today, and those who do not agree are free to not come and to not remain in Mount Athos. The occupiers of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou seek their entanglement in administrative matters, by persisting in the occupation of the sovereign Monastery, instead of living humbly, as so many others of the same ideas, and precisely this persistence created all the problems for them, the Monastery, Mount Athos, the Church and Greece.
- Why do they insist in the occupation of a sovereign Monastery?
Obviously, because for thirty years, by usurping and exploiting the history, the name and the fortune of the so much tortured Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, they are appearing among their party with a totally upgraded prestige and a leading role and, with the glamour of a monk from Mount Athos, and in particular, as the only true monks and true Orthodox, they have enormous advantages in the practice of the propaganda in favor of their party.
- Why is the fact overlooked that all this situation began for reasons of faith?
It is unacceptable to place the issue like this. The discussion then was in general around subjects of faith and by no means this is overlooked; however no one offended or insulted the faith of no one. Consequently, the cutting off from of the rest monks of Mount Athos, with whom did not exist any difference of faith, but a difference of estimation of ecclesiastical matters, is not possible to be supported that they took place for reasons of faith. Therefore, from no where comes the result that the disagreement, the reserve and the distress on subjects of ecclesiastical policy, justify and legalize the use of any means, and in particular of lawlessness and being against the Church, as in this respect the unprecedented deviation of these persons. Besides, even if it began with discussions about the faith, now seeing the disastrous consequences for the faith itself and the Church, Mount Athos and monasticism, they should have changed their attitude, as the other Monasteries that had interrupted provisionally the commemoration. It is not accidental that Mount Athos fights against the two extremes, Ecumenism and Zealotism.
- Then and now are the other Monasteries acting under the pressures of the Patriarch and with the threat of unfrocking?
This is untrue and impermissibly offensive for the known free, independent and steady beliefs of Mount Athos monks, who act always with their conscience, without succumbing to the pressures of anyone, as repeatedly they have proved. But it is deprecatory also for the Patriarch, whom it degrades into a tyrant - a terrorist. In this case the interest for the subject of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou was public and definitely always greater from the side of Mount Athos, and not the opposite. As it regards in particular to the discussed actions of the last years, the initiative is entirely in the hands of Mount Athos, and the other sides, the Church and the State, are in solidarity with every force. The Holy Community, as it comes easily from the texts themselves, had prepared the administrative actions before the publication of the Patriarchal Synodical Act, which continually took into account the final formulation.
- Does the attitude of those who remain in Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, constitute an interception in the plans of ecumenism, as it is written?
That was also a secret hope, that has proven vain, and that should be under great attention, because the experience of Mount Athos proves the opposite. Mount Athos holds the flag against ecumenism, because it remains a faithful child of the Church and has the right to intervene with respect, but also with a claim to be listened, something that they do not have the right to, those who went out of the Church. But we never had the minimum help from the occupiers of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, who on the one hand with the illegal possession and the non-operation of the Monastery deprived Mount Athos the possibility of giving united the testimony of faith and of having a Monastery as an active partner in its fights, and from the other hand with the extreme fundamentalist image that they provide, they are a permanent offence of the significance of the conservative but luminous monk of Mount Athos, a continuous reason for reproaches against Mount Athos, who tolerates them, and an "alibi" for those who want to justify their distances from the Orthodox confession.
- Is it correct that they were declared schismatics (separatist), while they deny it?
The Patriarchal Synodical Act realized and confirmed something which already exists; it did not create something new. It is obvious and evident that they were and they are schismatic, after they were broken away from the communion of the Church (and in particular with all the special characteristics of this case, i.e. the cutting off of a sovereign Monastery from Mount Athos, etc.), and this has been ascertained by the ecclesiastical authority, in the jurisdiction of which they belong. They say that the Patriarch is a schismatic, broken away from the only Orthodox Church, which is their party, and they alone ascertain that, or at any rate the authority - party that they recognize. In all this gullible absurdity is placed finally the question: Does the Ecumenical Patriarchate belong within the jurisdiction of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, in order to pronounce from these persons who are in the Monastery, or (according the Constitution) does the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou belong in the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, therefore this one of course acted equitably and responsibly? Besides, if they believed in their ideas, which they declare in fallacy, they shouldn't refute with secular means his action of the supposedly, by them, heretical Patriarch, in order to serve a certain provisional expediency, something that shows a complete lack of a constant ideology and an opportunism.
- Did the sit-in protesters of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou gain the esteem of the monks of Mount Athos with their "virtuous state", as it is written?
It is about information that arrogantly they channeled themselves in the press, as a sign of lack of modesty and humbleness. The Holy Community does not know one statement of support from any of the sovereign Monasteries of Mount Athos, but rather the opposite.
- Is their offence really so big and serious, so that persons, many of whom remain for years in Mount Athos, to face the sentence of deportation? Are the monks of Mount Athos so heartless?
We believe that the holy fathers, who established and delivered to us the statutes of Mount Athos, were not lacking in love and compassion, but simply were predominated with the love and the concern for the sanctity of the Garden of Panagia, who is the Mother of Love and Mercy. We do not have the right to abolish the statutes of Mount Athos and to deprive the coming generations the opportunity to find a Holy Place of mercy and the love of the God-man (Christ), ensured and protected, as we have found it. We have explained that Mount Athos for thirty years demonstrated a proverbial charity and tolerance, by serving in deed the needs of these persons as natural persons, but it met only ungratefulness and an effort of exploitation of this attitude in order to be recognized and to have a legalization of the illegality. We reported also proposals that became vain towards those in the Monastery, in order to avoid their natural removal. And again it is obvious that, if they abandon the claim to possess a sovereign Monastery, accommodating solutions will be sought at any case, and this is what obviously we wait for and we will accept with a relief. Consequently, the reproach of the cruel heart returns to those who give a hard time to all these people for the power and the claims that we mentioned before.
- Have there been efforts of approach?
The Holy Community all these years calls every year the Monastery to dispatch a Representative with the established circular. In 1980 it was called to send also a Supervisor. A committee of the Holy Community had discussions the years 1994 - 1995. A new committee had discussions since 1997, an effort that numbers around 15 meetings. The late Patriarch Demetrios was seeking for a meeting. The current Patriarch Bartholomew seeks the same and he sent also a letter, that is used today by them in a provocative way in their resorts as supposedly evidence of recognition. The Greek State via the Governor of Mount Athos proceeded in numerous efforts. It was attempted to be limited the matter at least initially in the simple mission of a Representative, but also that crashed to the incredible claim of the Representative to come outside or to remain seated during the time of the small inaugural prayer, offending directly our faith and our holy ones. It is obvious there does not exist the least hope of approach as long as the persons in the Monastery believe in the legalization and recognition of the existing outlaw situation and this is the reason that the matter is confronted on another basis, with the hope of the creation of the conditions of approach.
- Why do these things happen today after 30 years and not previously?
It is not about the choice of a concrete time, but of natural process that follows the way of operation and the decision-makings of the Holy Community. Mount Athos showed an exceptionally long-lasting tolerance and patience, as long as there existed some hope of return in the canonical order of Mount Athos. In the past years there have been contributions in the following particular parameters:
a. As it was declared elsewhere previously, from 1995 approximately and onwards the persons in the Monastery were turned definitely in the direction of the objective of their legalization and recognition and of the ungrateful exploitation for that of the philanthropist tolerance of Mount Athos and of the consolidation of the situation by the time, something that was declared henceforth clearly in 2000 with the claims of the mission of official documents to the "Abbot", forcing thus Mount Athos to act according to the right thing, before the situation turned out to be not reversible for itself.
b. From 1999 began a new phase of the subject. Concretely, in the previous periods existed certain elements to the so-called "Abbots" of the Monastery that would facilitate the passage into the legality, i.e. Athanasios had a canonical election and enthronement and Euthymios, from 1975 until 1999, had at least an ordination from a hierarch with a canonical ecclesiastical communion. On the contrary the now "Abbot" Methodios does not have this, a fact that leads the situation into an impasse, because his statement was explicit and evident that he would never accept a recognition from the Ecumenical Patriarch, i.e. he confirmed the entire lack of will for the seeking of a way of return.
c. With the newer international and European developments is proved necessary the increased sensitivity for the protection of the special status of Mount Athos and the confrontation of vulgar deviations that affects it, as the case in question, before it is late for Mount Athos.
d. We still mention that the persons in the Monastery are the first who, via their legal adviser, characterized illegal the composition and invalid the decisions of the Holy Community, which held a session in the absence of the Representative of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, something that calls in the introduction of the procedures of the resolution of the suspense.
- What is the role of the committee of the Holy Community?
The authorization of each committee of the Holy Community is to work, to collect data and to propose to the Holy Community, which is the only one that decides with the vote of the Representatives. The affair of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou was an object of extensive discussions, repeated meetings of the Holy Community, but also of the Extraordinary Double Holy Assemblage, and the committee, according to the order, moves inside the limits of the received decisions. It is completely unfair, but also dishonest and wretched, the realized effort to charge the committee with cruelty (while it is the one that submitted in every way for the discovery of a non-violent solution), or with personal expediencies, or even to be reported as they were its decisions and not of the Holy Community, in order to weaken their prestige. Equally outside any concept of ethics about the way of operation of the institutional bodies are the misleading and arrogant statements of the occupiers of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou about the Monasteries (and in particular improperly reported by the name) who supposedly side up with them.
- The persons, who possess the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, are they persecuted because they don't accept European appropriations?
Another superficial declaration slogan that became front page news with grandiloquent statements of "Abbot" Methodios. In Mount Athos there are executed for many years works of restoration of the Holy Monasteries with the financing of the Greek State, which uses both national and community funds. The Holy Community, foreseeing in favor of the Monastery, included it in the distributions of the Program "Athos". It was not asked from any other Monastery to accept funds of works, rather on the contrary the Monasteries, because of the very large needs, ask and with a great difficulty become accepted for a small number of demands. Also the persons in the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, even if they wanted to do it, they couldn't, because they are not eligible to manage anything in the name of the Monastery that illegally they possess. Consequently, it becomes incredibly absurd and untruthful the supposed "heroism to not accept European funds", with a final aim to drive ignorant people to feelings of sympathy and admiration for their contradictory asceticism, which is proved even more contradictory, if someone thinks of the respectable quantities of drachmas, euro and dollars that flow in the monastery for the needs of the propaganda of the party, the public projection, the juridical fights, etc, while these individuals collected retroactively and then they illegally claim the annual government economic sponsoring in the name of the Monastery. The issue is rendered also contradictory and derisive, when someone contemplates that the supposedly "anti-europeans" via their supporters, already addressed Geneva (Committee of Human Rights), Brussels - Luxembourg (European Parliament - Political Committee), Milan (International Legal Union) etc, while they threaten also an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, moving the (according to them) "Franco-Latins" against Mount Athos and our homeland.
- Does the entire issue also have a relation with the movement in Europe for the abolishment of the Avaton?
With a characteristic evasion they attempted to accuse the Holy Community that it wants to marginalizes the persons in the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, in order to abolish also the Avaton. However, these particular persons unfortunately have not participated either once in the struggles of Mount Athos for the assurance of its special status. On the contrary the admission of their positions would turn at the expense of this arrangement with a mathematic precision. Thus they open the way towards there when they speak and they write and they sign towards maximum official bodies for the weakness of Mount Athos to take administrative decisions, only after the resorts and decisions of secular courts (each one can understand what this means in the case of the violation, for example, of the Avaton), something that recommends a direct denial of the self-governance of Mount Athos, or for supposedly violations of human rights (religious freedom) in Mount Athos, because, if it becomes acceptable then the prohibition of heterodox and schismatics living in Mount Athos would offends religious freedom, and very soon we will have also a foundation of Papist monasteries and of Protestant institutions in the Holy Place(!).
- Why does the matter also have national dimensions?
We already explained that with their actions they offend the territorial sovereignty of the country and they undermine the prohibition of secession nationalistic claims. Beyond that, it is judged as an indeed antinational activity, the expedition of calumny, and public report of the country in the international public for their supposed oppression, climaxing with the creation of their English web page in the internet for the vilification of the Greek State in America and Europe, where they reproduce the endless lies about their persecution and they also publish a photograph of a monk from Karyes, i.e. a monk of another Monastery, as a monk of Esphigmenou, confronting supposedly the spectrum of the deportation without having another place to stay. In lots of other things that became known and other things that did not become known, we refer also to the recent mission of a letter and to the Patriarch of Moscow on his intervention at the expense of our country and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
- Have they received unfavorable measures against them?
Here we owe it to denounce the attempt of the theatrical manufacture of heroes from a safe point. From the summer of 2000 the Holy Community gave an order to the Holy Supervision to look after especially their effort to claim an indirect legalization, exploiting their services with a right way. Thus, by need it was not recognized to them, everything they didn't have the right to legally, as for example the right of representation of the sovereign Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou that they possess illegally. It was illegal to ask in the name of the Monastery specific permission of entrance (they called it prohibition of entry of their pilgrims), imperfection of the imported products (they named it deprivation of fuels for the winter, while in the Monastery they burn timbers), entry of vehicles (they named it exclusion of trucks with foods and condemnation to death from hunger) etc, while all these could come with other ways and not in the name of the Monastery of Esphigmenou, but these were claiming legalization. With the habit now of lying, they did not hesitate to speak of "confiscation of financial assets of the Monastery", of "economic strangulation", of "freezing of banking accounts" (on the occasion of a submitted simple question), things entirely insubstantial and unthinkable. With the same speech they spoke, and in particular to those abroad, of the "cutting off of water and electricity", from which the first is unthinkable and the second laughable, because in Mount Athos there does not exist a National Electrical Company. Yet the observation of laws on this very sensitive subject of the approach of ships to Mount Athos, for which the monks of Mount Athos had realized long-lasting fights, was named "exclusion from the sea".
The falsehood passed in the sphere of their sick imagination with regard to the facts of the January 16/29, 2003 and then, as we mentioned before. The policemen became a S.W.A.T. squad, the few jeeps the police always had (insufficiently, it is true, for the protection of the peninsula and with continuous protests of Mount Athos) and that essentially tried to cover the needs of the public order and security, became convoys and armored vehicles. The unarmed hitting of the door became a raid. The regular patrols of Port Police ships became concentrations of fleets. The discreet observation from a distance for reasons of public order and safety became a siege. The self-detention and closure of the doors from themselves became a prohibition of exits and so on (while on the contrary we know with concrete incidents that a by any chance disagreement with the following tactic or the thought about exit and escape from part of the members of its "brotherhood" faces the abusing and the reproach of the faith as a traitor). It became known to the ends of the world that they are deprived of food and they face death from hunger (while elsewhere simultaneously they declare that they have food for two years), that they ask for a doctor and medicines and the Greek government denies it to them (while this did not happen and with a declaration will never happen, but on the contrary these by enclosing old men and patients put at risk their health and their life), things that exceed henceforth the limits of the imagination and enter in the sphere of deceit and deception. And all these under the comfort of the known common will of Mount Athos, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek State to not practiced violence. This of course cannot mean also the legalization of illegality, but the peaceful observation of the legality, something that constitutes also the criterion of further confrontation of the situation.
- Are there issues of public order and safety?
It is obvious that the state will take elementary measures in spaces with unsettled situations, as in the region of the Monastery, and in particular after the oral and written threats that "it will be spill blood", that "they will put fire", that "they have enormous quantities of explosives and arms", that "it will become Kougi (i.e. explosive)" etc. Also there is a very serious matter of safety of the heirlooms, while it is not possible to know anything, ascertained only by the general statements of their illegal holders, for their chance and their situation, because of the weakness of the Holy Community to practice its surveillance by the law and of the hindrance of government services to proceed in relative control, in a direct violation of a number of relative provisions of protection of the common cultural heritage of Mount Athos. Besides this, according to the official reports, a status of terrorism prevails periodically both in the entry of Mount Athos from their supporters, with occupations of ships, hindrance and cancellation of transport itineraries, etc, and in Karyes from the same persons, with the abusing of high executives of the Holy Monasteries and the Holy Community and the launch of threats, things for which there did not happen arrests, knowing that those would be represented theatrically as supposedly confessions in the favor of the faith. It is noted that we received a sufficient number of highly threatening letters both to life and physical integrity and for "bombs like Bin Laden" for "bombings against monasteries", etc.
- Is there a secular mindset?
Unfortunately, it is proved that the team that occupies the Monastery is possessed by an explicit secular and contra-Mount Athos mindset, which is not met in any other Monastery of Mount Athos and which obviously draws its origin from the cutting off from the Mount Athos's trunk and the exclusive occupation with propaganda towards the world in favor of their party. As a main "qualification" there is showed the production of slogans that degrades the reality with communication PR stunts ("tricks"). With all the other lies we report that the "Abbot" mocked in public the Holy Community for the calling of dead brothers, while himself had declared them as alive, obviously in order to appear many and to claim a bigger imperfection. Besides that, in every statement he gives a different number of members of the "brotherhood". An equally important "qualification" appears the tendency to be a spectacle and to be theatrical. When was a summons for service materialized for the exercise of their advantageous rights, there were continuous photographs being taken, in order to immortalize the "martyrdom". The "Abbot" called on the public from television (ET3), the journalists to enter into Mount Athos without a permission of entry of the Holy Supervision, and with his own illegal means he set up in the monastery journalists and cameras, in order to cover the theatrical "confession of faith", with a complete contempt of the provisions of the Holy Place about the entry of the pilgrims and about the prohibition of filming, which they consider that they are obligated to preserve only for the "canonical" Monasteries, admitting thus that they do not belong in Mount Athos and that they are its adversaries by deceit and not by ignorance. In Karyes was noticed a a bunch of pamphlets ("Feilles - volant") and postings, the suspension of flags in the abode (konaki) of the Monastery and loudspeakers, like it was a student occupation or electoral center, etc, facts unparalleled through the centuries and compared only with periods of political disturbances. Since for many years they throw threats about combustions or explosions of the Monastery, proving that they do not love it, on the contrary to the genuine monks of Mount Athos, who did and will do everything in order to rescue it. Other important characteristics are the exploitation of the natural facts or the prefabricated situations, so that twisted conclusions and a deliberate secular journalistic noise are exported, strengthening the theory about persecutions, in favor of its utilization for the maintenance of the disturbance of the world, and also for legal reasons. Thus among other things, recently they did not respect neither the fact that the Holy Community was in a great grief because of the tragic death of a member of the brotherhood, in an accident of their own responsibility, and they attempted to take advantage of this, and also of the holy event of the funeral for propaganda expediency. Naturally, those types of undertakings we have unfortunately come to expect continuously and in the future, in order keep the subject in secular timeliness.
Enduring all these with the hope to All-Holy Theotokos that She will not abandon her Garden, we nourish the expectation that the outcry and condemnation of the illegality and its awareness by the holders of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou are possible to lead to the solutions of the matter.
In conclusion, Mount Athos addresses an appeal to the ecclesiastical and national conscience of everyone, the scandalized pious congregation of the Church, those interested by a human aspect, the political world, the Press, the Mass Media, to be aware of the height of the circumstances and to not be carried away by the systematic misinformation and deceit, but to support us to the present historical the struggle of Mount Athos for the salvation of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, but mainly for the safeguard of the statutes of the faith and the Orthodox monastic, spiritual and cultural tradition of Mount Athos.
All in the common Assembly the Representatives and
the Heads of
the twenty Holy Monasteries of Mount Athos.
Source: Edited by John Sanidopoulos
Source: in Greek