Armed Greek Police plan to forcibly remove monks

Thessalonica, Greece, October 20, 2006 - The Greek Government will move, as early as this weekend, to have armed police forcibly remove the monks of the Holy and Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou from their monastery property.  Over 150 police have been deployed on Mt. Athos, an unprecedented number in a community entirely populated by peaceful and defenseless monks.

The monks, who seek only a life of peace and prayer in their monastery, have been subject to a non-stop campaign of official harassment and intimidation by Patriarch Bartholomew of Istanbul, Turkey, and his accomplices in the Greek government, because of a spiritual disagreement they have with him.

This week the Greek government announced it would persecute the monks for embezzlement.  This is a fundamental abuse of power that may be commonplace in the world’s most repressive dictatorships, but not something we expect from a free and democratic Greece.   The charge lacks credibility, as it seems the prosecutor has forgotten that in an earlier round of the government’s campaign of harassment and intimidation, they confiscated and emptied all of the monastery’s bank accounts.

The Greek Government, acting under Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyiannis, has blockaded the delivery of food, medicine, fuel oil and have denied access to doctors seeking to provide urgently needed medical care to the elderly monks.  They have cut the monastery’s telephone lines in a clumsy attempt to cut off their communication and hide their persecution from the outside world.  They have confiscated their tractors so they cannot grow food to sustain themselves.  They have expelled workers who have worked at the monastery for years, and voided their pensions and government benefits for providing help to the monastery.

The abuses of human rights to it own citizens by the Greek government and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyiannis, could go on for pages.

Last week, in a display of judicial backwardness found only in banana republics, the Greek Court in Thessalonica found the monks guilty of the absurd charge of “disturbing the peace” and of being illegal occupants of their monastery home for 1500 years, while simultaneously allowing those who attacked the monks with sledgehammers to go free.

As Patriarch Bartholomew and the government of Greece descend further into the pit of backwardness and medieval religious persecution, the protests from religious leaders and lay people around the world are growing.  On October 13th, Bishop Stephen, primate of the Italo-Greek Orthodox church, wrote to Patriarch Bartholomew “your treatment and persecution of the monks of Esphigmenou is a scandal to the Church and an embarrassment to all Orthodox Christians throughout the world.  It sullies the good name of the Orthodox Church . . . Such behavior and acts are barbaric and take us back to the Dark Ages and for this Your All-Holiness should be deeply ashamed”

In the history of the church over 23 Patriarchs of Constantinople have been condemned for heresy.

This weekend, Patriarch Bartholomew will visit Mt. Athos to lay a cornerstone for a new monastery, on land confiscated from the monastery of Esphigmenou.   In an unprecedented move, the Greek government has banned all media outlets from covering the Patriarch’s visit to Mt. Athos.  Only the Greek State owned and controlled TV station will be allowed to cover his visit.  It is expected that armed police will forcibly remove the monks before the Patriarch's visit to fulfill his desire of a Disney-like atmosphere, where everything looks nice on the surface, but in reality is all fake.

The Greek Prosecutors office in Thessalonica, headed by Vassilis Florides (tel: +30-697-388-5888), has threatened grave consequences to anyone who dares to raise their voice to protest the Patriarch’s actions.

For More Information Contact John Rigas +1-617-524-4724

On the net at