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November 26, 2010

Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol Responds To Accusations That Monastics Are "Recruited" By Clergymen Behind Parents Backs

A Cypriot TV station "Sigma" interviewed Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol regarding the issue over why clergymen go behind parents backs to persuade their children to become monastics. The Metropolitan clearly responded to this harsh criticism by saying that all such accusations are "fantasies". He further pointed out that "94% of monastics, before they went to a monastery, had the consent of their parents, and often the same parents accompany their children."

Other cases involve such issues as when a 36 year old educated man desires the monastic life and parents oppose it, accusing their highly educated child of being weak-minded and being "recruited" by clergymen as if into some cult. The Metropolitan goes on to explain that it often happens parents come to see him to try to get him to even prevent marriages, such as when a parent disapproves of a spouse for their child. The Metropolitan sympathizes with parents who had other dreams for their children, whether in cases of marriage or monasticism, but also explains that sometimes things don't end up according to one's dreams. Furthermore, he emphasizes that the monastic life is very difficult and disciplined, and that if a weak-minded person were to come to the monastery and attempt to live its lifestyle, they would quickly fail and abandon it altogether. The monastic life requires a strong attitude and mindset and will, and this is based on one's changed disposition how they view the world and their desire to seek something greater than themselves and what the world has to offer.

The Metropolitan added that it does not benefit him to "recruit" monks or nuns. As a Metropolitan, he is too busy to deal with the affairs of monasteries and is not affiliated with any particular monastery. The accusation of "recruitment" into some sort of cult he finds extremely "fantastical" and beyond any type of logical thinking. He points out that 99% of the young people he sees that come to him for advice do so regarding their marriage, which he encourages and helps them to live godly family lives. The 1% who come to him expressing their desire regarding monasticism he also encourages, but does not recruit the 99% to join the 1%. As a Metropolitan of a large city, almost all his efforts go to helping families and marriages rather than monasteries. In the three monasteries of his Metropolis, maybe one or two people become monastics a year; Machaira has only 26 monks and the Precious Forerunner and Symvoulou Christou have only 7 monastics each.

When asked why monks are prohibited from seeing their parents, the Metropolitan emphasized the fact that parents are indeed allowed to visit their children, and even the child is allowed to visit the parent for as long as they would like. However, sometimes parents refuse to allow their children to live in monasteries (this is a percentage of the 6% or so that disapprove of their children becoming monastics) and refuse to accept the decision of their children. These will come to the monasteries screaming, issuing threats, and even hitting is involved. In this case, the Metropolitan says, parents would naturally be prohibited from entering the monastery. It is the children themselves who do not want to see these parents, because they are putting them in a difficult position.

The Metropolitan further brought up two examples where the bad behavior of relatives did not end there. At Machairas Monastery an intervention was devised by certain parents to abduct their child against their will out of the monastery, and to thwart this required police intervention. The second case involved a monk being kidnapped from his monastery.

The Metropolitan of Limassol further explained how in the last two decades there has been a greater interest in young people becoming monastics which "is not due to me, but people seek an authentic relationship with God." He quoted statistics, saying that one or two people become monastics every year in the monasteries. For example, when he took over the Convent of Saint Herakleidos there were 27 nuns, and now 17 years later there are 40 nuns. "So," he added, "in 17 years there have entered the monastery 20 nuns (given that some of them slept)."

The interview can be seen below (in Greek):