Athonite monks clarify Holy Mountain’s stance towards Ukrainian schismatics

Mt. Athos, April 23, 2021

A group of schismatics visited Athos in 2019, angering the monks with their blatant displays of nationalism A group of schismatics visited Athos in 2019, angering the monks with their blatant displays of nationalism     

Given the great interest among the Orthodox faithful in the position of the Athonite monasteries towards Patriarch Bartholomew’s interference in the Ukrainian Church question and the creation of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU), a group of Athonite monks have provided answers to frequently asked questions, revealing the Holy Mountain’s mainly negative attitude towards the OCU and the tension created by Constantinople between the Athonite monasteries.

On the other hand, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the canonical primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, is greatly beloved on the Holy Mountain.

The Q and A was published by Athonite Chronograph and the Information-Education Department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

First, the Athonites clarify that it is erroneous to say that Mt. Athos “tacitly agreed with the criminal policy of the Phanar on the recognition of the schismatics of the OCU,” but rather, it is appropriate to speak only about the position of specific monasteries.

There has as yet been no clear position from the Holy Mountain, because only the Sacred Community, consisting of one representative from each of the 20 ruling monasteries, can officially speak for Mt. Athos by consensus, and no consensus on the matter currently exists. When the discussion became deadlocked, it was decided that each monastery would proceed as it deems fit.

However, the monks recall that the Sacred Community denied Pat. Bartholomew’s request to send a delegation to the enthronement of Epiphany Dumenko as “Metropolitan” of Kiev in February 2019. Iveron, Stavronikita, Pantokrator, Xenophontos, and New Esphigmenou were in favor of sending a delegation, the Great Lavra and Koutloumousiou refrained from expressing any opinion, and the other 13 monasteries were unequivocally against sending any monks.

“All this clearly shows that the majority of Athos has its own position and expresses it in specific decisions and actions, and does not follow anyone's lead,” the monks emphasize.

Responding to the fact that Simenopetra and Vatopedi also later received a schismatic delegation that was visiting the Holy Mountain, the monks respond: “Indeed, later these monasteries didn’t express themselves in the best way,” when “Bishop” Paul Yuristy, “who naively and ridiculously calls himself ‘of Odessa’” visited.

As for Abbot Ephraim of Vatopedi, “all his actions are most likely explained by strong political pressure from the outside and the not-so-easy situation in which he found himself, given the criminal case in which he was previously accused.” However, the abbot’s overtures to Pat. Bartholomew during his most recent visit to Mt. Athos are hard to explain or justify, the monks state.

As for Simenopetra, its actions are primarily “forced and dictated primarily by the unwillingness to have a conflict with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.” Moreover, the monastery has long-standing ties with the brewer Andrei Matsola, a major sponsor of the schismatic OCU. It was Matsola who initiated and sponsored the visit of a few Athonite monks who visited Kiev and took part in the enthronement of Dumenko, although not as official representatives of the Holy Mountain.

Concerning the visit of two schismatic bishops in 2019, the monks emphatically state that it’s not true that they were accepted by the Sacred Community as legitimate bishops. In February 2019, the Holy Epistasia, the executive body of the Sacred Community, refused to meet and be photographed with the aforementioned “Bishop” Paul. “Metropolitan” Mikhail Zinkevich was later received by the Sacred Community, though it was “not cordial.” He was severely scolded by the representative of St. Paul’s Monastery, and the other representatives demanded of him what he and the schismatics were doing on Mt. Athos.

Importantly, neither bishop was given a document by the Epistasia allowing them to serve as bishops, despite erroneous media reports to the contrary at the time. The Great Lavra, Koutloumousioiu, New Esphigmenou and Iveron publicly expressed the opinion that such a document should automatically be provided on the basis of a letter from Constantinople, lest Pat. Bartholomew be insulted, but the Epistasia did not agree.

The Epistasia also had to complain to the Greek Foreign Ministry about Zinkevichs’ blatant displays of nationalism, “which is prohibited by the charter of the Holy Mountain.”

“All these actions of the Sacred Community and the Epistasia perfectly illustrate the attitude towards the schismatics and speak of a very definite position of Athos. As for the individual monasteries, this reflects their private position and is entirely on their conscience,” the monks emphasize.

The Greek monasteries of Iveron, Koutloumousiou, the Great Lavra, and New Esphigmenou publicly expressed their strong stance against the Russian Athonite Monastery of St. Panteleimon, though the Greek Monastery of Xeropotamou sent a statement to all the monasteries strongly rejecting the four monasteries’ accusations as overly political and lacking spiritual subtance. Xeropotamou’s statement was then supported by other monasteries.

And concerning Pat. Bartholomew’s visit to Mt. Athos from October 19 to 22, 2019, the monks clarify that he initially intended to serve in the Protaton, the central church of Mt. Athos. However, when the Patriarch was informed about the ambiguous sentiments of the monks towards him serving there, he changed his plans and served in Xenophontos instead, as there was the threat of many abbots and hieromonks refusing to serve with him in the Protaton.

In the end, only 6 or 7 abbots attended the service in Xenophontos Monastery anyways. “Most of the abbots of the Holy Mountain simply ignored this event and didn’t even send their representatives,” the monks clarify.

“Thus, it can be considered that by their refusal to concelebrate with Bartholomew in Xenophontos, the Athonite community in its majority expressed its position regarding him,” the monks conclude.

On the other hand, it is known that His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine enjoys great spiritual authority on Mt. Athos.

His Eminence Archbishop Jonah of Obukhov of the canonical UOC reported yesterday that he received a call from one of the Athonite abbots, asking for the opinion of Met. Onuphry on a certain issue.

“At the end of the conversation, he was moved and said that on the Holy Mountain they consider Metropolitan Onuphry the most spiritually experienced and prudent person in all of Orthodoxy,” Abp. Jonah writes.

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Gary Cox4/24/2021 1:43 pm
I am disappointed and disheartened by this article. Where are the Bishops and monks of times past who would stand firm for the truth. This is depressing.
Alexander Leitner4/24/2021 11:10 am
Thank you Theodoros!
Sorin4/24/2021 9:43 am
This Q&A does more harm than good. You basically have a couple of monks who say that other monks who disagree with them are like that because they care more about this world than God. I find especially low the attack to fr. Ephraim. So this abbot is open to betray Christ because of a criminal case where he was acquitted? If this is true, why is this man still an abbot? I think monks need to be more careful when they do things like this to not bring more harm than good to the Church.
Alex4/23/2021 8:04 pm
Amen, brother Theodoros! Amen!
Theodoros 4/23/2021 5:56 pm
I found the statements from the Athonites in this article confusing. Either they condemn the schismatics of Ukraine and the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew or they do not. In the past, the Monasteries of the Holy Mountain have made statements against ecumenism and Patriarch Bartholomew's prayer with the Pope. Those statements were clear and concise and left no doubt that they condemned ecumenism and the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew. Many Orthodox had been expecting that the Monasteries of Athos would have taken a similar stance on the church crisis instigated by Patriarch Bartholomew. They should have condemned the schismatics and Patriarch Bartholomew in a very clear manner. They should not have permitted the schismatics to even set foot on the holy mountain. Furthermore, this statement does not even mention or address the involvement of the reprehensible Geoffrey Pyatt and other American officials in the affairs of the Holy Mountain. If I remember correctly sometime before Patriarch Bartholomew sent his "exarchs" to Ukraine, Pyatt had been on the Holy Mountain and had asked the Athonites not to permit Russian bishops from entering the Holy Mountain. Also, I believe officials from the American consulate in Thessaloniki visited the Holy Mountain before Patriarch Bartholomew in the fall of 2019. This statement does not address why American officials were visiting the Holy Mountain. The Athonites need to take a more aggressive stance against Patriarch Bartholomew, the schismatics of Ukraine, and the American government.
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