Kiev, February 5, 2019
Abbot Alexios of Xenophontos (center), Fr. Maximos of Vatopedi (right), and Fr. Chrysostomos of the St. Panteleimon's Skete of Koutloumousiou (right) serving at the enthronement of Epiphany Dumenko. Photo: YouTube
As OrthoChristian has reported, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople selected two Athonite abbots to represent the Patriarchate at the enthronement of the Ukrainian schismatic leader “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko that took place in Kiev on Sunday.
Abbot Alexios of Xenophontos was present at the enthronement, but Abbot Ephraim of Vatopedi, who was threatened with suspension from the priesthood if he did not attend, suffered a heart attack soon after arriving in Kiev and thus did not attend.
Epiphany visited Abbot Ephraim in the clinic in Kiev, though there are conflicting reports about their conversation. The Ukrainian site lb.ua reports that Fr. Ephraim congratulated Epiphany on his election and enthronement, while sources in Kiev told the Russian site Tsargrad that this information was false. Fr. Ephraim later spoke to hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian Church on the phone and asked them to convey his love to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine and all the hierarchs of the Church.
However, despite Fr. Ephraim’s absence, another monk of Vatopedi, Hieromonk Maximos was present, as well as Hieromonk Chrysostomos of the St. Panteleimon’s Skete under Koutloumousiou Monastery. All three Athonite hieromonks present also served and communed. They are all visible in the video of the enthronement from Radio Liberty and their names are given in the Greek site Romfea’s report of the ceremony.
Elder Moses the Athonite (left), Fr. Chrysostomos (right) Fr. Chrysotomos was the cell-attendant and co-struggler with the well-known author Elder Moses the Athonite. Since Elder Moses’ repose on June 1, 2014, Fr. Chrysostomos has become a more visible figure representing Constantinople, though he and his elder were already frequent visitors to the Phanar during the elder’s lifetime.
Moreover, those close to Vatopedi say that the monastery has become increasingly close to the Patriarchate, especially since the repose of Elder Joseph of Vatopedi in 2009, though not all the monks hold a unanimous view. Regarding the current Ukrainian situation, according to a source close to Mt. Athos, the monks are being told that the Russian Church is grasping at Constantinople’s primacy and that Constantinople is under persecution and therefore the events in Ukraine are necessary and, concerning a Vatopedi presence at Epiphany’s enthronement, they are being told to just trust and be obedient.
The monastery also regularly entertains guests from the U.S. and other governments, educational institutions, and other secular personalities.
In March of last year, the Sacred Community of Mt. Athos declared its stance against the large-scale practice in recent years of creating exact copies of the many wonderworking icons that are treasured on the semi-autonomous monastic republic which are then “enthroned” in various dioceses and parishes. The practice had come under acute fire, with the main target being Abbot Ephraim, who regularly accompanied the icons on trips into the world.
Fr. Ephraim exchanged sharp open letters with Archimandrite Gregory, then the abbot of Dochariou Monastery (who reposed on October 22), who condemned Fr. Ephraim’s practice of traveling around the country with the copy icons. Fr. Gregory was critical of Vatopedi in general concerning its close contacts with the world.
Fr. Ephraim with Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. Photo: Twitter Archimandrite Ephraim received Geoffrey Pyatt, who is currently the U.S.’s ambassador to Greece though he served as the ambassador to Ukraine from July 30, 2013 to August 18, 2016, In April, just a few days before Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the Verkhovna Rada formally appealed to Constantinople for autocephaly. Pyatt openly supports Constantinople’s creation of a new “church” in Ukraine.
He has retweeted statements from the State Department on the autocephaly and on Sunday, he retweeted several tweets about Epiphany’s enthronement:
A word from the monastic community of Mount Athos in #Greece, and one of its senior hegumens Alexis of Xenophon: #Ukraine can count on the prayers and support of this major Orthodox spiritual stronghold. pic.twitter.com/dOYnfj4yzj— Roman Waschuk (@WaschukCanUA) February 3, 2019
The U.S. embassy in Kiev released an official message of congratulations following December 15’s “unification council” that created the new structure. The U.S. State Department has also released several messages of support and congratulations for the new structure.
Fr. Ephraim also visited the White House during a trip to America in October, where he participated in discussions on matters of religious freedom. He also spoke extensively “about the issues of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” reports the National Herald.
The abbot then met with State Department official Eugene Fishel, Director of the U.S. Commission of International Law and Policy Religious Freedom Commission Elizabeth Cassidy, and Religious Freedom Ambassador Sam Brownback. A month earlier, Brownback met with Poroshenko in Kiev, pledging America’s continued support for the struggle for an autocephalous Church in Ukraine.
Meeting of Elder Ephraim with Elizabeth Cassidy Director of International Law and Policy U.S. Commission of Internationals Religious Freedom and her associates at the State Department. Photo: TNH/Kostas Bej
The day after Epiphany’s enthronement, Constantinople’s delegation, including the three Athonite and led by Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul, met with President Poroshenko, as his official site reports. Met. Emmanuel specifically noted to the President that Abbot Alexios of Xenophontos was part of the delegation and that it was in his monastery that the text of the tomos of autocephaly was written, and the abbot expressed the hope that Poroshenko would be able to visit the monastery.
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