(Press Release from Esphigmenou Monastery (translated from the original Greek by John Rigas):



Merciless Persecution of the 117 Priest and Brothers of the Monastery of Esphgimenou on the Holy Mountain of Athos

Mt Athos, Greece - (January 5, 2003) Esphigmenou Monastery, the largest and most populated of the monastic Community on Mt. Athos, which was built and existed since the 5th century, informs all pious people regarding the unprovoked and historically unprecedented persecution of Orthodox Monasticism of the Esphigmenou Monastery’s 117 priest monastics, directed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Hiera Epistasia and the Political representative of Athos.

Since 1972, the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, besides stopping its commemoration of the Ecumenical Patriarch, ended interecclesial communications with him as well, because he, and his predecessors, according to multiple published reports, announcements, declarations and sermons during feasts, were followers of the panheresy of Ecumenism, which amongst others things, attacks the Creed of the Orthodox Faith by rejecting the exclusivity of the Orthodox Church.

The Hiera Epistasia, which has gone along with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in a move of reprisal which is totally illegal, cast out the representatives of our Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou from the Hiera Epistasia. Since that time, and at the urgings of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, have not accepted any of the new entries we submitted to the Monastic Roster for updating purposes.

Historically speaking, the Hiera Epistasia of Mt Athos, decided on September 1972 ( Paragraph 4 of the Chronicle) “ … that the Hiera Epistasia will not validate, nor will it accept, the Registration of any new names submitted to it from the Sacred Monastery (Esphigmenou) to the Monastics register, until this issue is resolved…”

The present Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in a letter sent to the Hiera Community of Mt. Athos, protocol number and dated on, 1166/13-9-1994 writes the following, “ …we paternally request:

Do not stop trying, to facilitate the return of the above monastics to the unity of our Holy Church and Faith. Do not accept any solution, nor for example, the return of any representative of the aforementioned Monastery to your advisory body of the Holy Mountain, before Synodical approval, as it had unfortunately, happened recently, as we were informed…”

With these demands, the Patriarch is attempting to destroy the independent and autonomous way the Sacred Monasteries of Mt Athos have for centuries governed themselves, and worse, it does not permit our Sacred Monastery Esphigmenou to work cooperatively with the Sacred Community Council.

This systematic persecution which began from 1972, has intensified during the past two years. For example:

In June of 2001, the Hiera Community abolished permits for travel to our monastery only, and in this way, obstructs the rights of friends and pilgrims to enter the Monastery on Mt Athos for a spiritual retreat.

The Hiera Community then asked the Greek Government to withhold its annual payment rightfully due the Monastery, in lieu of expropriated property taken by the Greek Government in the past.

In October of 2001 the Acting Greek Government Administrator for Mt Athos, sent a communiqué to Banks throughout Greece, to freeze all the assets of the Monastery.

Then, The Administration of the Sacred Community, denied permission to road access, to vehicles on their way to enter the Monastery, even when the cargo was the most basic human necessities of food, medicine and fuel.

Finally, the Acting Greek Government Administrator for Mt Athos, circulated a decision, which was given to us on December 30, 2002, calling upon on the holy fathers of Esphigmenou Monastery, to surrender to the Hiera Community:

The Monastery Seal The Monies The Antiques of the Monastery The Libraries The Sacred Vessels and Robes All property records of the Monastery And finally, to Vacate the Monastery by January 28, 2003, otherwise, we will be expelled and deported from Mt Athos.

The Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, faced with this unprecedented assault in the Chronicles of Monasticism, on its priests and Brothers, is asking for the moral support of all the pious and God fearing Orthodox Christians, to continue to have the right to pray, uncoerced, and to exercise the religious and human rights granted every citizen, and demand the nullification of the expulsion measures against its 117 priests and monks, so it can continue its spiritual and philanthropic works.

From the Office of the Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou

End For further information please contact: John Rigas, tel: (617) 524-4724, fax: (617) 524-7142 If you wish to speak to someone directly at the monastery call: Abbot Methodios (speaks only Greek), tel: +011-302-3770239796 Hieromonk Gregory (speaks limited English), tel: +011-302-377023938