Mt. Athos, March 25, 2021
Reports appeared in the Greek media over the weekend indicating that there is great interest among the monks of Mt. Athos in receiving the COVID vaccine. A report was published in Greek on Romfea on Saturday and in English on Monday on Bio-Orthodoxy (a sister site of the popular Mystagogy blog), stating that hundreds of doses had arrived and monks were already being vaccinated.
According to Bio-Orthodoxy, 400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived on Friday, and the first 36 monks, as well as monastery employees, were already vaccinated that day in the health center in Karyes, the capital of Mt. Athos. “There is relief among the monks that vaccinations have begun… [T]he initial reservations, the denial of some, even the conspiracy theories have receded,” the report reads, with reference to another Greek outlet, makthes.gr.
The first to be vaccinated was the abbot of New Esphigmenou Monastery, Archimandrite Bartholomew, followed by monks from Iveron, Koutloumousiou, and Simonospetras.
The Athonite monks are “particularly fearful” because their cenobitic life puts them in close contact with one another, the report states.
The Orthodox Times reported the same day that, “The interest is increased and the monks from monasteries, hermitages, and cells rush to get vaccinated in the Health Center of Karyes.”
A follow-up report on Bio-Orthodoxy on Wednesday states that about 500 people, mostly monks, have already been vaccinated, and it is expected that the vaccinations will far exceed 1,000.
Skeptical of the reports, the site contacted several fathers on Mt. Athos, who reported that the Athonite fathers were asked to declare their intention to be vaccinated about a month ago, so that enough doses could be ordered. Of the roughly 2,000 monks living on the Holy Mountain, fewer than 300 monks, or about 15%, expressed interest. Thus, 400 doses were sent for the interested monks and lay workers.
The fathers noted that several revered elders on the Holy Mountain have spoken out against the vaccine, including Elder Parthenios, the abbot of St. Paul’s Monastery, Elder Euthymius of the Holy Resurrection Kallyva in Kapsala, who was a disciple of St. Paisios, Elder Gabriel of the Kelli of St. Christodoulos of Patmos, also a spiritual child of St. Paisios, and Elder Paul of Vouleftiria, a doctor of molecular biology and biomedicine.
Many Athonites declare: “I refuse to become a guinea pig,” the report states. The fathers note that several monasteries had monks who suffered from the coronavirus without need for serious medical care, and they do not agree with the method used for vaccination.
Further, Vatopedi Monastery considers the Pfizer vaccine ineffective and “inappropriate” and is conducting its own medical research to provide options.