Mt. Athos, June 17, 2019
As the prospects for the success of his Ukrainian project continue to plummet, Patriarch Bartholomew is stepping up the pressure on the monasteries of Mt. Athos, which enjoy significant authority throughout the Orthodox world.
According to the Greek outlet Vima Orthodoxias, the Patriarch is demanding answers from Abbot Evlogy of the Russian St. Panteleimon’s Monastery in particular, asking why a delegation from the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) was turned away from the monastery during its visit to Mt. Athos several months ago.
Mt. Athos remains divided in its attitude towards the OCU. Some monasteries warmly received their visiting delegations and even served or communed with them, while others allowed them only to visit and venerate their relics and icons, while others completely shut their gates to them.
In late February, the Sacred Community, the governing body for the Holy Mountain, decided to allow each monastery to formulate its own position. According to the most recent reports, the abbots of the monasteries of the Holy Mountain are requiring Ukrainian pilgrims to bring proof of membership in the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, though it is unlikely that this represents the current opinion of all of the monasteries.
Despite the divide, the general attitude among the monasteries, sketes, and cells is negative towards the OCU, thus the Greek site writes that although “most of the holy monasteries refuse to recognize the new autocephalous church of Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is pursuing a strict policy, especially with regards to the abbots of those monasteries that closed their gates to the Ukrainian delegation of the new disputed 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.
Calling for an explanation as to why the delegation was turned away from St. Panteleimon’s Monastery in February, Pat. Bartholomew writes to Fr. Evlogy that if such an attitude to the OCU continues on Mt. Athos, “the Ecumenical Patriarch will be forced to take necessary measures to maintain canonicity and obedience to the Mother Church.”
The Vima Orthodoxias journalists ask: “What will the Phanar do in this case? Why doesn’t Mt. Athos have the right to express its opinion about such a serious issue?”
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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