Mt. Athos, March 6, 2019
The Sacred Community of Mt. Athos has been intentionally maintaining a neutral attitude regarding the Ukrainian crisis, neither explicitly praising or condemning the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, or praising or condemning the resistance of the canonical Ukrainian Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Sacred Community, made up of one representative from each of the 20 ruling monasteries, has various opinions about how to relate to the Ukrainian schismatic church and thus decided that each monastery could decide for itself whether or not to receive them.
Despite the overall neutral tone, four Greek monasteries—the Great Lavra, Iveron, Koutloumousiou, and New Esphigmenou—also submitted a statement strongly denouncing alleged “Russian interference” and strongly critiquing the Russian St. Panteleimon’s Monastery.
However, as the Russian Tsargrad and the Greek vimaorthodoxias have reported, four other monasteries seriously objected to the overtly-political nature of the Greek monasteries’ statements and submitted their own statement, which found the approval of several other monasteries.
As Tsargrad notes, the statement from the Lavra and the other three monasteries contains a number of historical and canonical frauds, including outright lies, for example that “the Russian Church not only speaks with the Pope but allows Catholic ‘priests’ to concelebrate.” The statement also accuses the recent celebrations surrounding the 1,000th anniversary of Russian monasticism on Mt. Athos as a manifestation of the aspiration to make Mt. Athos Russian.
Moreover, as Tsargrad writes, the nationalist zeal in regard to the Russian St. Panteleimon’s Monastery, bordering on outright Russophobia, is thinly veiled in the statement. This view coincides with the work of U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, who is actively fighting against the Russian presence on the Holy Mountain. Pyatt was previously the Ambassador to Ukraine and was instrumental in organizing the Kiev Maidan. It also coincides with Patriarch Bartholomew’s decision several years ago to severely limit the number of non-Greek monks living on Mt. Athos.
Moreover, after the publication of the Greek statement, four other monasteries filed a written response at the next session of the Sacred Community on Monday, March 4, stating that the position of the Great Lavra, Iveron, Koutloumousiou, and New Esphigmenou contains many politically-motivated interpretations and arbitrary accusations against St. Panteleimon’s.
According to statement from March 4, the previous statement “In no way contributes to the implementation of the Sacred Community’s decision to preserve its monastic and moderation position on the Ukrainian issue and to avoid any manipulation of itself for political purposes, which is absolutely foreign to the spiritual nature of the Holy Mountain.”
This position was supported by a number of other monasteries.
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