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December 24, 2011

Elder Ephraim of Vatopaidi To Be Imprisoned

On December 23 by decree of the Council members of the Court of Appeals, Ephraim of the Vatopaidi Monastery was sentenced to preventive detention. This was reported by the Greek news agencies Romfea and Amen.

The court's decision is related to the so-called "Vatopaidi scandal", filed in connection with the exchange of part of the monastery estates, which was characterized as a violation of the law.

Members of the Court of Appeals sided with the investigator I. Kalu, who demanded imprisonment of the accused while the prosecutor P. Madzunis suggested leaving him free on bail.

Thus far it is unclear whether Archimandrite Ephraim will remain under house arrest in Vatopaidi Monastery or will be placed in a detention cell outside of Athos. Particularly regrettable for the brethren of Vatopaidi Monastery and the entire Christian world is that this event occurred just before Christmas.

It appears the Greek government has begun its "cleansing" by imprisoning one of Orthodoxy's most revered elders, and left a bunch of political scandals who owe millions without impunity to enjoy Christmas in ski resorts both in Greece and abroad.

Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece responded to the decision with the following statement: "... The essence of the case I did not know and I respect the Greek justice. But I am very concerned, like any Christian, by the timing of the issuance of the decree of custody of Abbot Ephraim of the Vatopaidi Monastery on Christmas Day. And no more needs to be said."

The abbots and all the fathers of Mount Athos stand behind Elder Ephraim. Metropolitans and clergy throughout Greece have expressed outrage at the turn of events. Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol called the decision "very sad", and after speaking with Elder Ephraim following the decision, said: "The elder is very calm and has surrendered to the will of God. Whatever God allows, may it be blessed, he told me." He further said: "For Elder Ephraim, this trial is a blessing from God and an opportunity for spiritual ascent."

It is not yet known why the Greek judicial system came to their conclusions. According to the law, detention is only permitted if the accused is unknown, about to escape, has a history of attempted escape, or there is sufficient evidence the defendant will commit further crimes.