August 19th, 2008 - This week, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will travel to Mt. Athos, Greece from his native Turkey in his latest attempt to expel the monks of the Holy and Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou on Mt Athos from their monastery home of 1500 years.
The monks of Esphigmenou have had a long running religious dispute with Patriarch Bartholomew over his departure from the teachings of the Orthodox Church and have respectfully and humbly requested a peaceful dialog with him in an attempt to resolve their differences. Patriarch Bartholomew has refused dialogue and has resorted to ever more harsher, unorthodox tactics in his crusade to evict the monks from their monastery.
The Holy Community of Mont Athos has voted 13-6 (Esphigmenou was not allowed to attend), not to use force to remove the monks. The Patriarch plans to meet with the abbots of the monasteries of Xeropotamou, Dionysiou, Saint Paul, Simonos Petra, and Pantoktatoros. Angered by their decision not to use force, he personally intends to apply pressure to those monasteries because they did not vote to his liking. His intentions are to demand they change their vote to evict the monks of Esphigmenou. The Patriarch is allegedly threatening the abbots with defrockment if they do not obey his edict to use force.
Patriarch Bartholomew's approach is a blatant violation of canon law and a wholesale abuse of Episcopal authority which only reserves defrockment for grievous violations of canon law, and is not for advancing a personal political agenda. Like other teachings of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew is disregarding this central tenet of church law.
Mt Athos is a semi-autonomous monastic of community in Greece and in comprised of 20 independent monasteries. It is governed by the Holy Community, which is a body made up of one representative from each monastery. Under the Greek constitution, the findings of the Holy Community have the force of civil law on this monastic peninsula of Greece. Patriarch Bartholomew, who is a Turkish citizen, is attempting to interfere in this legitimate and independent lawmaking body in Greece, by bending them to his personal will. He seeks to influence their decision, not on a matter of canon law but to advance his personal political agenda.
The monks of Esphigmenou, 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 Constantinople and his accomplices in the Greek Government, because of a religious disagreement they have with him. In this holy war against the monastery, we see the same types of state-sponsored tactics Turkey has used against Orthodox Christians in Turkey, brought to bear on the Greek Orthodox citizens of Esphigmenou monastery. This is one Turkish import Greece can do without.