Mt. Athos, June 28, 2019
On Tuesday, the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) reported that a delegation consisting of several “priests” and “deacons” visited Mt. Athos from June 21 to 23. This was the third such delegation from the OCU to visit Mt. Athos since February.
According to the report, the delegation served with the brothers of Xenophontos and communed at Pantocrator Monastery. They also visited a number of other monasteries, including Iveron, where they served a moleben before the wonderworking Iveron Icon of the Mother of God (Panagia Portaitissa), New Esphigmenou, and the Sketes of St. Elijah and St. Andrew.
Xenophontos, Pantocrator, Iveron, and New Esphigmenou have already shown themselves accepting of the OCU before, while the additional reporting that the delegation also visited Philotheou and Karakallou was a surprise to many, as they are known to be more traditional and specifically stated in January that they would close their gates to “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko of the OCU if he tried to visit.
Several Ukrainian outlets thus reached out to contacts on the Holy Mountain and learned that although the delegation visited Philotheou and Karakallou, they were not welcomed.
As Strana.ua learned, the delegation entered both monasteries by mingling in with a larger group of pilgrims. Seeing them in clerical clothing, the monks of the monasteries decided to clarify what Church they belonged to. Having learned that they were from the OCU, they were told that they were not allowed to attend services and that they could not even list of names to be commemorated, as only Orthodox Christians can be commemorated in the services.
The delegation was even told not to take photographs at either monastery so as not to discredit the holy places.
The Union of Orthodox Journalists reports, with reference to its own sources, that the delegation entered the church in Karakallou together with a group of pilgrims from Greece and then immediately left.
Schismatic bishops had previously served at Pantocrator and Xenophontos during the two earlier trips, and the delegations were also welcomed at certain other monasteries. However, the delegations have also been turned away at other monasteries, including Dochariou, Zographou, and St. Panteleimon’s.
Divided on the issue, the Sacred Community of Mt. Athos decided in late February to let each monastery decide for itself how to handle visits from the OCU. However, Patriarch Bartholomew has recently begun demanding answers from the monasteries that have rejected the OCU, the Russian St. Panteleimon’s in particular. If such an attitude towards the OCU continues on Mt. Athos, Pat. Bartholomew wrote to Abbot Evlogy of St. Panteleimon’s, “the Ecumenical Patriarch will be forced to take necessary measures to maintain canonicity and obedience to the Mother Church.”
Recall that 12 Athonite elders from various sketes and cells wrote to the Patriarchate of Constantinople in mid-March in defense of the canonical Ukrainian Church, confessing that they continue to recognize the Ukrainian schismatics as schismatics.
Archimandrite Ephraim, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery, was earlier threatened with defrocking if he did not attend the February 3 enthronement of “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko in Kiev, and ended up suffering a heart attack from the pressure and stress of the situation, though other Athonites did attend.
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