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9.10.2012

Mount Athos News Release (from 2003)

News Release by

The Holy Community of Mount Athos

The Holy Community of Mount Athos ceases this opportunity to break its silence to respond to what it seems to be a meticulously organized effort that has been launched against it in order to confuse and mislead the public on issues related to the Holy Monastery of Esfigmenou and its occupants. The Holy Community, having realized the magnitude of the negative campaign against the Holy Mountain, will try to respond and at the same time reveal the truth pertaining to the whereabouts of the Holy Monastery of Esfigmenou and its occupants.
By doing so, the truth reveals a reality contrary to the one portrayed by the individuals who occupy the Monastery of Esfigmenou. Thus, no individual is being persecuted, there is no dispute of faith, no one is being accused for failing to commemorate the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch, no individual?s dogma is under attack, no one?s religious freedom and human rights have been violated and no force has been used against any person. In addition, no one is being barred and there has been no such action as an embargo to prevent the transmission of food, medicine and any kind of medical services. The whole effort has been described as the greatest staged campaign of deceit against Mount Athos in its entire history.
The developments at the Holy Monastery of Esfigmenou are of pivotal importance not only for Mount Athos but also on a wider ecclesiastical and national level. It is considered a milestone of yet another major and historical struggle in which all of us are called to exercise great caution and sensitivity. The main points of this article focus on the following:
1. The Monastery of Esfigmenou, which has always been a historic and prominent Athonite Monastery, has nowadays come into a tragic state of disarray due to an ongoing illegal occupation. Thus, it is no longer recognized by the government and has been deprived of its ability to maintain a brotherhood and run any official business. (Based on the decision 1440/2005 of the Holy Community of Mount Athos, the Monastery of Esfigmenou has acquired a new brotherhood with new legal governing officials.)
2. The Holy Mountain has always based its existence on a very fundamental principal: all monastic communities are united not only on an ecclesiastical basis but they are also under the same governing authority. By this very unity we can all refer to our community as Holy Mountain Athos rather than a sum of monastic dwellings. The eradication of this principal of unity will constitute a direct threat against the very existence of the Holy Mountain and its over a thousand years history. In addition, such an event will have dramatic consequences on a national level:
3. For over thirty years, the individuals in the monastery are not simply opposed to the ecclesiastical rule of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the commemoration of his name, something that had already happened before in other monasteries as well. Most importantly, people inside the Monastery had ceased to communicate with any of the other monasteries and even distanced themselfs ecclesiastically and politically from the remaining monasteries of Mount Athos and all Orthodox Churches. These people currently affiliates with only one of the various self-proclaimed “True Orthodox Christians” (G. O. X.) groups and maintains exclusive communion with them. In the recent years, their efforts have mainly focused on maintaining and recognizing their status which is both illegal and unconstitutional. The unraveling situation is extremely dangerous to the Athonic establishment which coerces it to a feeble defense over its very existence.
4. At the present time, the people who occupy the monastery grounds comprise a group of individuals who the last few years have taken on characteristics which are prohibited at the Holy Mountain. This schismatic, distinct brotherhood engages in acts of propaganda and proselytism which comes into conflict with the Constitution and the Governing Status Quo (Charta) of the Holy Mountain. The only viable legal solution will be their immediate compliance and integration to the community of Mount Athos or their free departure from the Athonic peninsula. The appointed Athonic authorities found that the claims of the group were unfounded and the only action appropriate to such developments is the removal of this group from the Holy Mountain in order to preserve and secure the stability and order of the community and the continuation of the Athonic tradition.
5. It is also well known the common sentiment of having this matter resolved in a civilized and peaceful manner without the use of violence based on the hope that the individuals involved in this situation will recognize the illegitimacy of their actions. Nonetheless, the Greek and international audience has been exposed to an unprecedented propaganda that is based on lies and misleading information whose sole aim is to elicit sentiments of sympathy to their efforts. Thus, false reports are being leaked to the news of persecutions, harsh laws and decisions against the group, blockades, being under siege, armed men, etc. while at the same time this group is exhibiting behaviors and is engaging into actions that go against the Athonic ethos and moral, and the principles of this holy place.
6a. It is helpful to clarify there has not been any persecutions against the Monastery of Esfigmenou nor have its function been discontinued. The reason behind these developments has nothing to do with the refusal to commemorate the name of the Patriarch. It has also nothing to do with other “zealote” monks of the Holy Mountain or theaforementioned True Orthodox Christians (G. O. X.). The members of the group who occupy the monastery of Esfigmenou are not being persecuted due to their beliefs or the fact that they do not accept any financial assistance from the European Union. In contrast to what many believe, it is the group?s secular and anti-Athonic belief system along with the fact that this group insists on the illegal possession of the Monastery something that is extremely dangerous for the future of the Holy Mountain. The actions of this group have absolutely nothing to contribute to the steadfast struggles and battles that the Holy Mountain is committed to on matters of faith. Nonetheless, they try to portray themselves as pseudo martyrs which is unfounded since they have never been wronged or treated unjustly by anyone.
b. Although the community of Mount Athos has tried on several occasions to find a compromise and resolve the situation, the occupants of the Monastery of Esfigmenou have refused to cooperate.
c. The occupants of the Holy Monastery of Esfigmenou do not join in the efforts of the rest of the community to maintain a united front on matters that impact the Orthodox faith.
d. The Holy Mountain has always tried to fight against extremities, “zealotism” and ecumenism and has repeatedly given its decisive testimony on matters of faith, such as the one against the dialogue between Orthodox and Anti-Chalcedonies that took place in Balamand, Lebanon.
In closing, the Holy Mountain would like to make an appeal to all those who have shown interest in the recent developments and have been moved by their own religious and patriotic convictions, such as the members of the Body of the Church, the political authorities, the press, and the news media. First, we would like to advise all people to exercise caution and not allow to be misled by inaccurate and fraudulent information that?s intended to deceive and confuse the public. On the other hand, we ask each and every one to rise to the occasion and support this historical event as the Holy Mountain struggles to save the Holy Monastery of Esfigmenou, safeguard the decrees of the Orthodox faith and monasticism, and uphold the spiritual and cultural traditions of the Holy Mountain.
Signed by all present
Representatives and Proistamenoi
of the twenty Holy Monasteries of Mount Athos

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