Patriarch of Constantinople blockades food, medicine, heating oil, to monastery in attempt to forcibly evict monks.

Mt Athos, Greece, January 16, 2003 -- In an unprecedented move, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has blockaded basic food, medical supplies and heating oil to the 117 monks at the largest monastery on Mt Athos, Esphigmenou.

According to Abbott Methodios, "All vehicles have been prohibited from coming to our monastery - even those carrying food, medicine and heating oil. Pilgrims and visitors, even members of our own family, are also prohibited from coming to our monastery. We maintain the true Orthodox faith and this has angered the Patriarch and others because we will not change the faith. Our role is to dedicate our lives to praying for the souls of our fellow man and for the world. Our battle is for truth, and the true orthodox way of life, which the Patriarch is attempting to silence."

The monks at the largest and most historic Esphigmenou monastery on Mt. Athos, the spiritual center of the Orthodox faith, disagree with the Patriarch's unorthodox teachings and actions, particularly as it pertains to unity with the Roman Catholic church, and as a result are facing his wrath. The Patriarch has failed to get monastery to change its Orthodox beliefs by this unprecedented blockade, and is now using the Greek police as his own private army to have all the monks forcibly evicted from the Monastery, on January 28, 2003.

Now under siege and threatened with extinction, the brotherhood of monks cannot pray for peace anymore, unless they follow and support the Patriarch’s new political ideology. “We will not leave our monastery” Abbott Methodios said “We believe in the truth of Orthodoxy as it has been given to us by the saints and the fathers of the church, and we will not change that to please others." The monks live a life of spiritual and monastic tranquility in the unbroken tradition of the brotherhood that has occupied the monastery for over a thousand years. “These heavy handed and unchristian actions by the Patriarch demonstrate that he does not have the love of the Orthodox faith. Publicly he preaches unity with Catholics and other non orthodox, and privately he cuts off food to those who disagree with this theology. We will continue to pray for his redemption, but we will not change our beliefs.”

The Esphigmenou Monastery is where the great St. Gregory Palamas was abbot, and where St. Anthony left for Russia to establish Orthodox monasticism. The monastery was established in the first millennium as an autonomous spiritual center for the Orthodox Church. For over a thousand years the monastery has provided a place of prayer and peace for those who chose the monastic life. It is now threatened with extinction.

For further information please contact: John Rigas, tel: (617) 524-4724, fax: (617) 524-7142