A Statement From the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, Mount Athos

December 25, 2002, [January 7, 2003 Gregorian calendar]

The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ


“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted” (II Timothy 3, 12)

The Monks of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou have been declared schismatic and outside the Church. This occurs at a time when Latins and Protestants are embraced and are considered brethren and as possessing the fullness of the catholic church by the Patriarch.

The Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou, renown throughout the Greek world for its many years of witness and struggle on behalf of Orthodoxy, has suddenly been subjected anew to persecution and coercion in the last few months.

On the eve of the Nativity Feast, the Holy Monastery received a grave blow from the Ecumenical Patriarchate which declared the entire brotherhood schismatic.

It seems clear and unambiguous that our Monastery, in attracting controversy, has for many years hindered Patriarchal plans to lead the Orthodox Church into syncretist Ecumenism. The Patriarchate of Constantinople has resolved and made decisions from its place of authority failing, however, to recognize the fact that Synodal resolutions must conform to and comply with the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church in order for them to have any legitimacy and force—imitating Papal infallibility. Moreover, we must point out that a throne does not make a Patriarch, but rather, an Orthodox confession and the practice of the Orthodox faith. This truth is evident in the fact that the Patriarchal throne has been occupied by many deviant and heretical Patriarchs in the past, as one may read in ecclesiastical history.

We thus boldly proclaim to all the Orthodox faithful, as we have done in the past, that the Patriarch Bartholomew and the members of his Synod are imbued with an un-Orthodox mind-set. Having alienated themselves from the Truth of the Gospel, they have ceased to represent the Holy Canons and the Tradition of the Orthodox Church.

In particular, they have long held the heterodox churches of the West to be members of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ, recognizing their sacraments and priesthood, thereby rejecting the uniqueness of the Orthodox Church as the Church of Christ . In this way they disavow the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan Creed that states: “I believe . . . in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church ”, thus fragmenting and arbitrarily distributing the Truth of the Gospel to all of the various heretical confessions and “churches”. What is more, they blasphemously embrace and include all godless religions as under the same true God. Should we be in error or be guilty of slander, let the Patriarchate contradict our assertions, an act that would put them in contradiction with a whole host of their own statements and actions.

We are deeply grieved by the remainder of the nineteen Athonite Monasteries in that their inattentive and even indifferent stance toward the heresy of Ecumenism which, along with their malevolent and reckless stand toward our Monastery, represent a blemish in the history of the Holy Mountain. In the name of Truth and Orthodoxy, we are obligated to reveal the true image of today’s state of affairs on Mount Athos to the Orthodox faithful. From among these monasteries, six have proven to be shameless clients of and like-minded with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, towing the Patriarchal line and receiving directives from Constantinople to the detriment of Orthodoxy and the autonomy of Mount Athos . The remainder of the thirteen Holy Monasteries, while not in agreement with the un-Orthodox policies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as one may discern from their past protests, and even though they assiduously defend Athonite autonomy, condone our eviction, as they seem to have been coercively persuaded by the state authorities, but also as they desire to be relieved of the annoying presence of our Monastery which does not ecclesiastically commune with them. It would have been better and God-pleasing for them to have respected our Orthodox views and positions, rather than to have immersed themselves in the deviant teachings of the Patriarchate, condoning, to our detriment, the Patriarchal declaration of our being schismatics.

Our Athonite brethren should know that in signing our brotherhood’s execution warrant, they place themselves in opposition to the Protectress of the Holy Mountain , failing to remember the fact that we are all guests in Her Garden. We do not have the right to uproot monks from their Monasteries for the reason that the Theotokos guided us and planted us here. Violence and the means currently used are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit or the Gospel’s love.

The Patriarchal Synod’s resolution that declared us schismatics, aside from the fact that it embodies other underlying motivations, is not in agreement with the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church. It directly violates and forsakes the 31st Apostolic Canon as well as the 15th Canon of the First-Second Council. The stand of previous Athonites, during the Patriarchate of the Latinophron John Bekkos, seven-hundred years ago, in resisting the Union of Lyons, was grounded on these very canons. This resolution, however, will have the same fortune as a previous decision twenty-eight years ago that resolved to defrock four of our brethren. 

We offer the following words from the Holy Fathers of our Church regarding unjust sentences:

Saint Maximos the Confessor establishes that “should a hierarch place a sentence that out of place with purpose of such a sentence, he will not have Divine judgment on his side, for only in agreement with God he place sentences and not according to his own will.” (The Rudder, 36)