Authorities on Mt. Athos refuse Emergency medical attention to Esphigmenou monk with severe burns.


Mt Athos, Greece, July 17, 2006 -- A severely burned monk from the Esphigmenou Monastery on Mt. Athos was taken into custody by local Greek Police, while seeking emergency medical attention for severe burns on his face and body.

When the monastery previously called for emergency medical services they were denied any help. They then called the coast guard for help ferrying the monk, but they also refused.

The monastery pleaded with the authorities to get critical medical attention and they finally agreed to allow the monk to go to a hospital, but the authorities would offer no assistance.  When they arrived at the port however, one monk was assaulted by the authorities, all the remaining monks were detained and their vehicle was seized.

Four monks have died since the start of the blockade, three from being denied basic medical attention and one died in an accident trying to avoid the blockade. These actions are yet another act, in a long line of inhumane tactics, being used against the defenseless monks of Esphigmenou Monastery.

The monks of Esphigmenou, the most populous monastery with 105 fathers, on the remote Greek peninsula Mount Athos, disagree with the politicizing of their faith by patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (Istanbul), and as a result, are under siege.  The patriarch, obsessed with quashing dissenting voices, has ordered the Greek police to enforce a blockade, to starve the monks into submission.

More recently, patriarch Bartholomew pressured the Greek government and local authorities to create an imposter monastery with the same name, Esphigmenou in order to transfer all property, divert mail, and transfer bank accounts to his new creation, while he starves the real monastery of Esphigmenou.  The creation of this shadow brotherhood amount to an illegal taking of the Monastery’s property and also violates the charter of Mount Athos since the new abbot does not even meet the minimum qualifications set forth in the time honored rules of the historic charter.  Basic human rights laws and local laws are being broken in order to appease the patriarch.

“No one should be treated like our monks and Monastery by the Greek government”, said Abbot Methodios. “The denial of permits for our Monastery, the blockade of basics needs, medical supplies and doctor’s visits for emergency medical services, has resulted in the untimely death of four monks. The cutting off of our emergency telephone lines, the threat to confiscate our fishing boat if we venture to go out to fish for our food, the embargo on fuel oil for heat, the unwarranted confiscation of our farm Tractor and our building supplies, the sanction, expulsion from Mt. Athos laborers found to be working at the Monastery, certainly are Human Rights violations and Violations of International Treaties to which the Greek government is signatory” said Abbot Methodios. “Someone in the Greek Government has to be held responsible for these lawless acts against us.”

Mount Athos is a semi-autonomous region of Greece, the power of the state is vested in the Foreign Minister, Mrs. Dora Bakoyianni .The chain of command authorizing the use of Greek Police and Armed Forces to blockade food, medicine, doctor’s visits and heating oil ultimately resides under her authority.

The Esphigmenou monks live a life of spiritual tranquility in the unbroken tradition of the brotherhood in the monastery which was established over 1500 years ago.  Mount Athos is the spiritual center of the Orthodox Church, where the monks are considered defenders of the faith. Its remoteness and rugged natural beauty attracts pilgrims and tourists alike, who come to see the art and architecture of the Byzantine Empire.

The Monastery's library houses 372 original Christian manuscripts codices and 8,000 books some dating back to the 4th Century.  The treasury includes numerous religious articles such as rare 13th Century mosaic icons and relics of saints.

For further information please contact:

John Rigas, tel (USA):  (617) 524-4724, fax:  (617) 524-7142