Mt. Athos, October 25, 2019
The abbot and brethren of Grigoriou Monastery, one of the 20 ruling monasteries on Mt. Athos, undertook a thorough study of the Ukrainian crisis, the first part of which has been sent to the hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church.
“We offer the first part of our study in writing … in the hope that we contribute to the unity of the Church,” Abbot Christophoros (Stavros) writes in his letter to the hierarchs, dated October 1.
The letter was published on Wednesday by the Constantinople-aligned blog Phos Phanariou (Light of the Phanar), and reads:
Our holy Church is currently undergoing great trials due to the Ukrainian ecclesiastical issue. The unity between the Local holy Churches of God is shaken, and there is a very high probability of a schism. Our pain for the Church has prompted us to instruct our brothers of our holy habitation to deeply study the issue, based on the canonical tradition and the Synodal and Patristic works.
We pray that the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who “calls all to unity,” would inspire and enlighten the holy hierarchs with the highest wisdom to preserve the unity of the Body of Christ.
With reverence and trust, we offer the first part of our study in writing for the examination of the holy hierarchs in the hope that we will contribute to the unity of the Church to the best of our ability.
The contents of the study were not published, though the blog’s extremely negative comments would seem to indicate that the Grigoriou brothers’ study is not very supportive of the Constantinople position.
“The Athonite send ‘theological and canonical’ threats to preserve the ‘unity’ of the Church,” the blog writes, pointing to the Grigoriou study as an example.
It is unclear when the letter and study were sent to the hierarchs. The letter is dated October 1, but the blog claims it was sent just after Patriarch Bartholomew left Mt. Athos on Tuesday, thus it is unclear whether the hierarchs received the study before they gathered in Council on October 12, when they recognized the right of Constantinople to grant autocephaly in Ukraine.
“The Athonites have gone too far!” the blog writes; they mistakenly “believe they should have a say” in the Ukrainian issue.
“Apparently they have misunderstood their role… Being Athonites does not make them ‘authorities,’” the bloggers assert.
Further, the blog takes a swipe at those who look to Mt. Athos for guidance: “Of course, unfortunately there are demented ‘faithful laymen’ who are waiting for ‘a line,’ and this is exploited by some Athonites.”
“But let them not worry about the Ukrainian issue. Recognition of the autocephaly of Ukraine will very soon follow, and from other Orthodox Churches, therefore the ‘problem’ will be resolved. Let them not lose time for prayer on this ‘research,’” the authors of the Phanariot blog conclude.
Abbot Christophoros was present at the official reception of Pat. Bartholomew on Mt. Athos, though not at the Liturgy celebrated by the Patriarch at Xenophontos Monastery, to which all 20 abbots were invited, but only 7 came.
Opinions on the Ukrainian issue vary on Mt. Athos. The Sacred Community, consisting of one representative from each of the 20 ruling monasteries, could not make a united decision and resolved to allow each monastery to formulate its own position towards the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”