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July 31, 2013

The Truth About the Occupation of Esphigmenou Monastery

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

20 Disturbing Facts About the Esphigmenou Occupation Issue

Hieromonk Ephraim, after being attacked by the illegal occupants of Esphigmenou Monastery

1. The brotherhood residing in the historic Monastery of Esphigmenou is schismatic. Not because it observes the Old Calendar, but because it is NOT in communion with any other Orthodox Church or Patriarchate. Thus, apart from merely having ceased to commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Monastery has also broken off its communion with all the other Monasteries of the Holy Mountain, as well as with all the Orthodox Churches, whereas it has acceded to a full and ecclesiastical communion with one of the so-called "GOC" (Genuine Orthodox Church) groups, which, let it be noted, have no ecclesiastical communion - not even among themselves. Since then, and to this day, no one is accepted for residence in the Monastery, unless they accept the ecclesiastical communion exclusively with that group, while others are persecuted.

2. Other predominant Monasteries have also interrupted the commemoration of the Patriarch at times and are cautious about the future, however, none of them has ever interrupted ecclesiastical communion nor has any ever acceded to an ecclesiastical communion with outside ecclesiastical groups - and of course none of them has ever been persecuted. On the Holy Mountain there are other zealot monks, who however live peacefully in their cells, without disturbing the Canonicity and the Statutes of the Holy Mountain.

3. The Constitution and the Statutes of the Holy Mountain prohibit monastic cohabitation with heterodox or schismatics.

4. In order for the reader to understand what "schismatic" means, let him note that the illegal occupants of Esphigmenou Monastery regard all of us [canonical Orthodox Christians] as unbaptized and heretics, who have been infected by the heresy of ecumenism. These "unfortunate" occupants have the same opinion about the Elders Paisios and Porphyrios and Iakovos. These occupants aren't even Hagiorites! The Sacred Community has, since 1974, been striving to secure decisions for the expulsion of the Abbot and the Committee members of the Monastery, who have thereafter lost their identity as Hagiorite monks. It was they who had scorned the decisions of the Sacred Community.

5. For thirty-nine whole years, the schismatics have been exploiting the tolerance of the Hagiorite Fathers, in order to gain recognition.

6. The illegal occupancy of Esphigmenou Monastery, apart from being an ecclesiastical problem, is also a NATIONAL one, because if it were permitted for every Monastery to excise itself from the Sacred Community, then it would be quite plausible for them to invoke reasons of faith, or conscience, or national reasons, etc., to excise their Monasteries and to accede unhindered to other ecclesiastical or national jurisdictions, with catastrophic consequences for the Holy Mountain, the Church, and the territorial sovereignty of our land. If the prohibition of cohabitation with heterodox and schismatics on the Holy Mountain were to be recognized as an offence to one's religious freedom, then soon after, we will also see the establishment of Papist monasteries and Protestant organizations on that Holy Ground.

7. Of course they are not persecuted for not condescending to accept European funds (as they continually tout), because even if they wanted to accept those funds, they would not be eligible because they do not have the right to administrate anything in the name of the Monastery that they are illegally occupying. Subsequently, their supposed "heroism in not accepting European funds" becomes incredibly absurd and mendacious, when its ulterior motive is to arouse feelings of sympathy and admiration among the unsuspecting, for their controversial asceticism, which is proven even more self-discrediting if one were to consider the very respectable influx of Drachmas, Euros and Dollars pouring into the Monastery for the group's needs for propaganda, for publicity, for court procedures, etc., while these individuals have retroactively cashed in (and then continue to illegally demand) the annual State funding in the Monastery's name.

8. The matter is rendered even more controversial and a mockery, when one considers how these supposed "anti-Europeanists" have - through their supporters - already addressed the Human Rights Committee in Geneva, the Political Committee of the European Commonwealth in Brussels and Luxembourg, the International Union of Legists in Milan, etc., while also threatening to appeal to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, thus stirring up the "Franco-Latins" (as they call them) against the Holy Mountain and our homeland.

10. The illegal occupants not only obstruct the officers of law and order from entering the space of the Monastery; even the 10th Supervisory Committee for Byzantine Antiquities has filed a suit against them, because they did not even allow the archaeologists to enter the Monastery.

11. The illegal occupants are not the "poor innocent guys" they strive to present themselves as in the Mass Media.

12. The Second Magistrates Court of Thessaloniki had sentenced on 8/3/2012 the "ringleaders" of the illegal occupancy of the Representative Sector of the Esphigmenou Monastery at Karyes of the Holy Mountain, to 29 months imprisonment with reprieve, for possession and use of weapons, dangerous bodily harm and simple bodily harm to members of the Monastery's new Brotherhood. It specifically tried the familiar case of the attack on the Representative Sector of the Esphigmenou Monastery in December of 2006, which had drawn the attention of the Press. The brotherhood of the Monastery hopes and prays that the aforementioned sentence will prove to be helpful, both for the awareness of those severely sentenced, as well as for the active response of the officials in finally freeing both the (illegally occupied) Representative Sector as well as the much-afflicted Monastery. Fanaticism and illegal occupancy cannot have a future.

13. The "poor innocent" monks have striven to calumniate our homeland at an international level. They have resorted to European (aka "Frankish" and "satanic", per their own claims) courts, when they themselves accuse the Holy Mountain of being "Europe-lovers". They have appealed to courts with arguments which - if they were ever to be accepted - would bring catastrophic consequences for the entire Holy Mountain (including Esphigmenou Monastery of course).

14. Abbot Methodios does not even have Priesthood. Athanasios had been canonically chosen and enthroned, and Euthymios - from 1975 up until 1999 - had at least been ordained by a hierarch with canonical ecclesiastical communion. On the contrary, the present "abbot" Methodios does not even have that!

15. Their propaganda claiming "persecution" caught on; given that it was illegal for them to ask for special "residence visas" in the name of the Monastery, they claimed this as "forbidden entry" for their pilgrims; the tax exemption for imported goods was referred to as "deprivation of fuel for winter" - even though the Monastery burns wood; the "no entry" designated for vehicles entering the Holy Mountain was conveyed as the obstruction of trucks bringing food supplies and subsequently condemning them to die of starvation; they speak of "confiscation of the Monastery's properties", of "financial strangulation", of "frozen bank accounts" upon being asked a simple question - all these being entirely unfounded and inconceivable. They also spoke along the same lines - and in fact overseas - about "their water and electricity supply being cut off" (the first claim being entirely inconceivable and the second simply amusing, given that there is no electricity supply on the Holy Mountain.) Even the observance of laws pertaining to the very sensitive issue of vessels approaching the Holy Mountain by sea - for which the Hagiorites have struggled many years to safeguard - has been referred to as "a blockade from the sea". They have demonstrated everywhere, with every opportunity, that they are in danger of starving to death (while elsewhere, they claim to have food supplies for two years); that they ask for doctors and medicines but the Greek government refuses to supply them (when this has never happened and has been claimed it will never happen, whereas on the contrary, by "incarcerating" elders and the sick, they themselves are putting their health and their lives at risk):

16. a) By having acceded to a specific group of Old Calendarists, the illegal occupants therefore no longer commemorate the Patriarch. Then again, there are also many other zealots on the Holy Mountain who are not persecuted by the Patriarch or by the State because of their faith!

17. b) They cannot collect any funds from the European Union, because they cannot administrate the Monastery's documents and data, which they are illegally holding.

18. c) They are not being persecuted, given that they are living absolutely unrestrained, doing literally whatever they please, and totally indifferent to the Laws of the State - and of the Holy Mountain, thus putting its status quo at risk.

19. d) They delight in concocting "persecutions" and police brutality - as they had done last September, when they had stated to all the Media that SWAT teams had come up to the Mountain to drive them out. This piece of news was a thorough lie. But they did the same thing in December of 2006, when they had cracked the skull of Fr. Ephraim! In fact, the photo of Fr. Ephraim (shown above) circulated over the Internet as "evidence" of the illegal occupants' persecution, with the claim that the wounded Priest-Monk was a member of the schismatics.

20. e) The illegal occupants have no communion with any of the other Hagiorite Monasteries.

Source: Translation by OODEGR and edited by John Sanidopoulos.

The Authenticity of the Photo With the Molotov Throwing Monk

July 30, 2013

According to the monks of Esphigmenou, the images that were released over the internet of a monk throwing a molotov cocktail is a photomontage.

It's possible, but these are likely to be genuine. An audit of exif [exchangeable image file format] we did in Taxalia.blogspot, shows that it has not been tampered with, unless the manufacturer has such advanced knowledge that they can change the exif data.

The technical elements of the photograph show it to be authentic, and taken with an iPhone 4S, while the coordinates of the shots are in the correct spot (40.15 degrees latitude, 24.14 degrees longitude).

And because the internet is a major deceiver, the submission of the photo to the exif scanner shows that it was taken right here:

So it probably (maybe not 100%) is authentic, unless we stumbled on a major hacker monk who managed to alter everything.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Statement of the Canonical Esphigmenou Brotherhood on the Molotov Cocktails

July 29, 2013

The canonical Brotherhood of the Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou (which is recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate) issued an announcement regarding the attack with molotov cocktails and an explosive device at Karyes.

The text of the announcement is as follows:

Karyes of the Holy Mountain on this day, 07/29/2013, experienced an attack with explosives and molotov cocktails.

One hundred meters from the most-sacred Church of the Protaton and the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain, the occupiers of the buildings of our Monastery refused to relinquish the occupied section of the Representative Sector at Karyes to the judicial bailiff who had come to execute the final court injunction of a restraining order, and they threw three molotovs and an explosive device at him.

The day passed waiting for police reinforcement, which ultimately may not be sufficient to simply protect us.

We appeal to everyone, and especially to the well-governed State:

Finally understand what is happening. We are in danger. We do not know what the dawn of tomorrow will have in store for us, with fanatics possessing explosives in direct contact with the site of our home.

The Prosecutor of Thessaloniki requested any information on the arrest of the perpetrators. Will anybody listen to even the Prosecutor? Must the Holy Mountain grieve its victims before the mobilization of the State? The photographs say it all.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Esphigmenou Monks Fling Explosives At Court Officials To Stop Eviction

Costas Kantouris
July 29th, 2013

A group of monks on Greece’s monastic sanctuary of Mount Athos who are facing eviction attacked court bailiffs with rocks and petrol bombs Monday, according to civilian authorities on the peninsula in northern Greece.

No one was injured in the incident early Monday outside the administrative offices of Esphigmenou Monastery, and no arrests were reported. The bailiffs retreated from the site.

Cell phone video of part of the incident, taken by the rebel monks and seen by the Associated Press, showed the court-appointed bailiffs using a small earth-moving machine in an unsuccessful attempt to force their way into the grounds of the office at Karyes, the capital of the all-male sanctuary from where its 20 monasteries are run.

About 100 monks in the 1,000-year-old Esphigmenou monastery have been involved in a years-old dispute with the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, over his efforts to improve relations with the Vatican.

The monks have defied court orders to leave the monastery and allow church-appointed replacements to take over the site and the Karyes offices about 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the south.

“According to the information we have received from the police, explosive materials were thrown at the bailiffs,” Aristos Kasmiroglou, civilian governor of Mount Athos, told the AP.

“The law must apply to everyone. And all sides must safeguard the pious nature of the site.”

The Esphigmenou monks – who argue that they are safeguarding centuries-old Orthodox traditions – have refused to leave the complex, and receive food and other assistance from supporters in other parts of Greece.

“They came in the morning and started banging on the doors,” Esphigmenou monk Elder Savvas, who said he witnessed the incident, told the AP.

“We had warned them that if they provoked us, we would respond.”

July 30, 2013

The First To Fly Was A Greek From Constantinople in 1637

Arsenios Tselepis launching his flight from Galata Tower in Constantinople

By John Sanidopoulos

According to the latest historical study out of Bilgi Universtiy in Istanbul, a Greek from Constantinople was the first man in the world to fly over a long distance, in the 17th century.

This discovery was made by Sinan Cetin, a Turkish man who teaches History at Bilgi University. Up until now it has been believed that Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi, who is celebrated in Turkey as the first to fly, was a Turkish Muslim man. However, according to findings by Sinan Cetin, Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi was not a Turk but a Roman (Greek), whose real name was Arsenios Tselepis, son of Savvas and Elizabeth Tselepis from Tatavla (a neighborhood in Constantinople today known as Kurtulus).

This is proof of a historical revision by nationalist Turks who want to take credit for such an impressive and historical feat achieved not by one of their own, but by a second class citizen whose land was occupied by the Turks. Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi is a national hero in Turkey, with one of the three airports in Istanbul carrying the name "Hezarfen Airfield", and even a mosque next to the Istanbul Ataturk International Airport named the Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi Camii. This news, which will likely be disputed, is a tremendous blow to Turkish history, but welcome news to modern day Greeks that the truth has come to light.

It is traditionally believed in the West that the first to fly, besides the mythical Icarus and Daedulus, were the brothers Joseph Michel and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier in 1783. However, the fact is that this daring stunt took place 146 years before by Arsenios Tselepis, the brave and brilliant Romios, on 8 November 1637, which happened to be the feast of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel according to the ecclesiastical calendar of the Orthodox Church. However, some historians question this date and argue that the flight took place two days later, when reckoned according to the Ottoman calendar of the time. It is said that Tselepis was inspired by the sketches of Leonardo DaVinci, with some corrections and balancing adjustments. The name Hezarfen means "expert in a thousand sciences".

The Historical Flight of Arsenios Tselepis

We know of the flight of Arsenios Tselepis from an eye-witness account written by the traveler and historian Evliya Celebi in the 17th century ten volume work titled Seyahatnâme. He writes:

"First he practiced by flying over the pulpit of Okmeydanı eight or nine times with eagle wings, using the force of the wind. Then, as Sultan Murad Khan (Murad IV) was watching from the Sinan Pasha mansion at Sarayburnu, he flew from the very top of the Galata Tower (in contemporary Karaköy) and landed in the Doğancılar Square in Üsküdar, with the help of the south-west wind. Then Murad Khan granted him a sack of golden coins, and said: 'This is a scary man. He is capable of doing anything he wishes. It is not right to keep such people,' and thus sent him to Algeria on exile. He died there."

Measurements of the Launch Height and Flight Distance

Measurements of the alleged launch height and flight distance are as follows:

* The Galata Tower sits 35 m (115 ft) above sea-level, the peak of its conical dome 62.59 m (205.35 ft) above ground level and 97.59 m (320.18 ft) above sea-level.

* Doğancılar square is about 12 m (39 ft) above sea-level.

* The elevation change between the tower (takeoff) and the square (landing) is 85.59 m (281 ft).

* The distance between the tower and the square is approximately 3.358 km (2 mi).

* Glide ratio required is of 39:1

Homily One on the Holy Apostles of the Seventy Silas, Silouan, Epainetos, Crescens and Andronikos

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Last Sunday, beloved brethren, we celebrated the Prophet Ezekiel, and today we celebrate some Apostles of the Seventy, namely Silas, Silouan, Epainetos, Crescens and Andronikos.

Christ, apart from the narrow circle of His disciples, also had a wider circle, the Seventy, who He prepared for missionary work. Luke the Evangelist writes: "After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go" (Lk. 10:1). And further on he writes: "The seventy returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name' (Lk. 10:17).

Among these Seventy Apostles were the Holy Apostles we celebrate today. According to Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, Saint Silas was associated with the Apostle Paul and became the Bishop of Corinth, Saint Silouan became Bishop of Thessaloniki, Epainetos became Bishop of Carthage, and Saint Crescens became Bishop of Cartagena, which is the Cartagena of Spain. All four of these apostolic men struggled to spread the Christian faith and establish the Church, reposing venerably and led to their desired Lord.

The sacred hymnographer in the troparia he prepared mentions that these apostolic men were all-wise, having been illuminated by the lightning of the Spirit, and travelling throughout the entire earth, they illumined believers. Also, he uses the image of clouds, because these Saints were spiritual clouds who went to all the ends of the earth, dropping heavenly rain that soaked the souls of the faithful with Divine Grace, eliminating the weeds of atheism and making their souls fruitful.

These Holy Apostles proved to be "physicians of souls and saviors of the body", using the spiritual medicine of Divine Grace which heals also the illnesses of the body, and for those who are healthy in body, it is for the illnesses according to their soul.

Our Church is called Apostolic, as we confess in the Symbol of Faith, because it is based on the teaching and work of the Apostles, who were sent by Christ to the whole world to preach and to baptize. Successors of the Apostles were the Fathers, and successors of the Fathers were the Bishops throughout the ages, until today, who carry over to people the true faith, teaching and life of revealed truth. The Church is Apostolic because it is Patristic, for without the Fathers, who are the successors of the Holy Apostles, the apostolicity of the Church would not have survived. One reason the Orthodox Church is the eminent Apostolic Church, which preserves the truth, is because it is Patristic. And, of course, the Fathers are not confined to the first eight centuries of Christianity, as some claim, but they extend to all ages. Fathers of the Church are the sacred Photios, Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Saint Gregory Palamas, Saint Mark the Evgenikos, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, etc. Every age of ecclesiastical life is a patristic age.

In America there are many "churches" that all claim authenticity, and there are people looking to find the historic Church; the Church, that is, which preserves this revealed truth of faith and life. And many of them confess that this historic Church they found in the Orthodox Church, which is the Church of the Prophets, the Apostles, the Fathers, the Ecumenical Synods, the Venerable Ones and the Martyrs. That is, there is an uninterrupted succession of faith, ordination and life.

We should consider it an honor to belong to this Church and we can have communion with the Twelve and Seventy Apostles, as well as their successors.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Κυριακή 30 Ιουλίου: Άγιοι Απόστολοι εκ των Εβδομήκοντα Σίλας, Σιλουανός, Επαινετός, Κρήσκης και Ανδρόνικος", February 2005. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.