Kiev, February 1, 2019
The abbot of the Athonite Vatopedi Monastery, Archimandrite Ephraim, having arrived in Kiev to attend Sunday’s enthronement of “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko of the Ukrainian nationalist church at the order Patriarch Bartholomew, was urgently hospitalized today after suffering a heart attack, reports Tsargrad.
According to information from their sources, doctors believe that Fr. Ephraim’s hospitalization could last indefinitely. Thus, his presence at the enthronement is highly unlikely.
The story has also been reported by the Greek site Romfea and the information has been confirmed for OrthoChristian by a source in a Church administrative position with direct contact with Vatopedi leadership, though there has been no official statement as of yet.
Archimandrite Ephraim has suffered heart attacks and has undergone a heart stent operation in the past.
It has also been reported by Maxim Pavlov of Kiev, an author for Pravoslavie.ru, also with reference to a reliable source with direct contact with Vatopedi, that Archimandrite Ephraim was given an ultimatum by Pat. Bartholomew to attend the enthronement or be suspended from clerical duties.
The Holy Community of Mt. Athos voted on January 28 not to send a delegation to the enthronement. Though 5 monasteries voted in favor of going, Vatopedi was not among them. Nevertheless, Pat. Bartholomew enlisted Fr. Ephraim and also Abbot Alexios of Xenophontos Monastery, who is attending the enthronement willingly.
Moreoever, Pavlov writes: “The motives for such an ‘attack’ from Bartholomew are understandable—to put the abbot, who has good relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, in the line of fire.”
In 2011, Abbot Ephraim brought Vatopedi’s most sacred relic, the Cincture of the Most Holy Theotokos, to Russia, where it was venerated by millions of Orthodox faithful.
When the abbot was arrested soon afterwards on financial charges, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia came to his defense, expressing his concern to then-Greek President Karolos Papoulias.
Fr. Ephraim visited Russia again in 2017, where he met with Orthodox faithful in Ekaterinburg and also met with President Putin.
Further, the abbot of Vatopedi has been vocal about his stance against the Ukrainian schismatics.
In March 2015, when His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Church, was visiting Mt. Athos, Fr. Ephraim stated: “With a heavy heart I am anxious about the present state of Ukraine and from Holy Mount Athos I am asking the Ukrainian people to remain faithful to the canonical Church, the canonical primate and the canonical Synod. We want Ukrainian residents to support the canonical Church. It is important for one’s salvation to obey the canonical Church.”
And in an address to the Ukrainian people in 2017, Fr. Ephraim noted that the issue affects all of Mt. Athos, saying the Holy Mountain is very grieved about the schism in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. According to the abbot, the schism cuts like scissors, and he who went into schism must understand that he is outside of the fold of the Church. “If someone is outside of the Church … he cannot attain holiness,” he said.
“Therefore, we entreat all of our brothers who have left the canonical Church, we appeal and we entreat that they would return to the womb of the canonical Orthodox Church,” the abbot said.
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