Mt. Athos, April 17, 2019
The monks inhabiting the buildings of Esphigmenou Monastery, one of the 20 ruling monasteries on Mt. Athos, considered squatters by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Sacred Community of Mt. Athos, were sentenced to 6-months imprisonment with a 3-year suspension for fraud against the state, according to a recent announcement from the New Esphigmenou Brotherhood, reports Romfea.
Esphigmenou Monastery has been in schism from the rest of the Holy Mountain, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the rest of the Orthodox World for many years, in protest against the ecumenistic activity of the Patriarch of Constantinople with the Catholic Church, and others. Unfortunately their zeal against errors on the left has led them into the error on the right, unlike the rest of the Holy Mountain which has not departed from the one Church of Christ.
The constitution and statutes of the Holy Mountain prohibit monastic cohabitation with the heterodox or schismatics. In 2005, the new Esphigmenou brotherhood was established, which is recognized by the rest of Mt. Athos.
According to the statement, the schismatic monks were illegally exempted from the value-added tax and pretending to be the regular administration of the monastery by using the name and seal of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou. Thus, they were illegally receiving economic benefits, not paying the taxes due by every Greek citizen. Monks of the Holy Mountain are exempt from the tax, but the squatter monks are not officially considered Athonites.
“The residents in the main building of the Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou are not monks of Mount Athos but ordinary squatters. They have no right to remain on Mount Athos nor to appear as monks of Mount Athos or of Esphigmenou Monastery, according to the decisions of Mount Athos and the Greek Justice,” the statement reads.
In a 2013 statement, the Sacred Community of Mt. Athos declared that, “The buildings of the monastery are being occupied illegally by a group of persons, who by ownership are not monks of Mt. Athos, and they commit a usurpation of authority and also a number of other penal offenses.
“The Holy Monastery of Esphigmenou once again expresses its trust in Greek justice and is convinced that its decisions, taken with the help of God, will finally be implemented by the Greek state. Thus, legitimacy will be restored, and normality will return to this solemn holy place so that it can perform its mission unhindered,” the new statement concludes.
8 monks of Esphigmenou, including Abbot Methodios, received jail sentences in early 2017 for instigating violence and throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers during an incident in July 2013 on Mt. Athos.
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