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October 10, 2011

Ecumenical Patriarch Addresses Extremist Attitudes Among Some Athonite Monks In His Visit To Great Lavra

October 8, 2011

A stern message to schismatic monks and critics of the dialogue between the churches was sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew from the Holy Monastery of Great Lavra on Mount Athos.

Mr. Bartholomew, citing the admonition of St. Athanasios the Athonite, founder of the oldest monastery of Mount Athos, noted the road which leads to the "perfection of the monk": the "first condition is obedience" which lightens the yoke of ascetic life, because the burden is lifted by the Abbot." He added that the "second condition" is "love and unity between the brothers" and "the avoidance of dissension and quarrels among you," which "unfortunately" exist "in the ego and ambition of certain monastics in the brotherhood" and lead "down dangerous and slippery paths in the salvation of the soul and its spiritual progress."

"The main danger lies in the fact that these monks are deceived thinking that they keep 'undefiled' the deposit of the faith, knowing God's command proclaimed clearly by the Apostle Paul: 'Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account'" (Heb. 13:17). The Ecumenical Patriarch continued:

"So we also are fully aware of the responsibility, which we wear with the hierarchical and patriarchal omophorion on our shoulders."

The Ecumenical Patriarch condemned the attitude of the deniers of the dialogue "with the heterodox", stressing that "holding the truth" in the Orthodox Church allows us to not fear "any deduction or counterfeiting of our holy faith," but he will continue the dialogue "to persuade the well-meaning of those who dialogue with us."

"On the whole, the dialogue may appear at a loss. Divine Grace however attracts to the truth those who are participating in it. Is it not worth a dialogue, even if only one soul approaches towards the truth?" asked Bartholomew.

The Ecumenical Patriarch said that he has repeatedly stressed in the past "the essential differences between Orthodoxy and other confessions." Referring especially to the dialogue with the Catholic Church he emphasized that the Orthodox Church always prays "for the union of all" and may not refuse herself when invited to a dialogue on the purpose of attaining this union, "as is desired by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself", but not without substantial conditions:

"Union is the ultimate goal, but before that there should be the identity in the faith."

"Speaking years ago to our Roman Catholic brothers I pointed out the path regularly followed by the Roman Catholic Church by accepting more and new doctrines, and in its journey towards our Church, instead of converging towards union, it has departed and driven further apart one another" (University Tzorztaoun, 21 October 1997), added Mr. Bartholomew. He said further:

"Furthermore, it is not true that we overlook the preconditions to the union of churches, nor is it true that we overlook the differences which prevent union."

The Ecumenical Patriarch noted in particular the responsibility of the "first in rank" Monastery of Mount Athos (in which resides a small number of zealot monks) on issues of Order, towards other smaller monasteries of "lower rank" which will "energize disruption of spiritual unity to its soul", emphasizing also that "the Sacred Monastery of Great Lavra is not warranted to be the steerer of other such monasteries of such a mindset."

"Great Lavra cannot and is not allowed to be the steerer of schismatic Esphigmenou. Great Lavra has the rank of being the first monastery of Mount Athos and must lead and be the flag-bearer of a sound Orthodox mindset and doctrine. Lavra should always be first to preach the implementation of unity, spiritual love and truth", said the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Closing his speech he cited a passage from the Epistle of James: "Brethren, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).

Translated by John Sanidopoulos