Abp. Elpidophoros on Athos: Visits several monasteries, not given customary reception by monastic governing body

Mt. Athos, January 24, 2024

Abp. Elpidophoros is welcomed by Abbot Alexios of Xenophontos Monastery. Photo: goarch.org Abp. Elpidophoros is welcomed by Abbot Alexios of Xenophontos Monastery. Photo: goarch.org     

Archbishop Elpidophoros, the head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, recently led a pilgrimage group on a trip to the Holy Mountain.

Two weeks before his trip began, the Sacred Community, consisting of one representative of each of the 20 ruling monasteries on the Holy Mountain, and all the abbots of Mt. Athos jointly wrote a letter to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, informing him that they were concerned about the public spectacle surrounding the Baptism of a gay couple that Abp. Elpidophoros celebrated in the summer of 2022:

We regret to have found, through the published photographs of the Archbishop of America, after the end of the mystery, a wrong impression was created regarding the acceptance by the Church of the mystery of marriage by individuals of the same sex, a message contrary to the doctrines and teaching of the Orthodox Church. This event, contrary to the Gospel teaching, provokes the intense concern of our Holy Community.

The story was originally published by the National Herald, which had the letter to Pat. Bartholomew at its disposal, and whose Athonite contacts also said that the Archbishop was not going to be formally welcomed on the Holy Mountain.

This news was then picked up by outlets throughout the Orthodox world, including OrthoChristian, while other outlets and commentors rushed to deny the reports and declare them propaganda, saying the Archbishop’s planned trip had not been canceled.

However, the original reporting never said his trip would be canceled, but rather:

According to the National Herald, its Athonite contacts state that the Sacred Community, which represents the 20 ruling monasteries, do not intend to welcome the Archbishop according to the normal protocol.

And following his visit to the Holy Mountain, the Holy Epistasia, a four-member monastic executive body, confirmed that this is exactly what happened. The Archbishop and his fellow pilgrims visited five monasteries, serving at some of them, but he was not afforded the customary reception of a hierarch by the Epistasia.

Abp. Elpidophoros serving the feast of Theophany at Xenophontos. Photo: goarch.org Abp. Elpidophoros serving the feast of Theophany at Xenophontos. Photo: goarch.org     

The executive body even states that it is disappointed in reports that try to make it appear otherwise.

The Epistasia writes:

Following the developments regarding the visit of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America to the Holy State, the Sacred Supervisory is in the unpleasant position of expressing its sorrow for the inaccuracies and untruths of the various publications on various websites. Following this, it clarifies that there was a unanimous decision of the Sacred Community of the representatives of the twenty sacred monasteries, so that there would not be the customary reception of the hierarch by the Holy Epistasia, and the sacred monasteries would act on the matter according to their judgment.

This unanimous decision of the Sacred Community was taken because of the published photographic material after the end of the Mystery of the Baptism of the infants in the HOly Church of Panagia Faneromeni in Vouliagmeni (about which Baptism no qualms were expressed by us). Due to the participation of His Eminence the Archbishop of America in the photographs after the Mystery, and in fact in official ecclesiastical garb, a false impression was created regarding the acceptance by the Church of the Mystery of Marriage for those of the same-sex, a message contrary to the dogmas and teachings of the Orthodox Church.

Abp. Elpidophoros began his pilgrimage at Xenophontos Monastery, where he celebrated the feast of Theophany. The Mystagogy Resource Center writes:

According to reports, instead of going straight to Karyes and visiting the Sacred Supervisory upon his arrival, per their request though this would be the proper procedure under normal conditions, Archbishop Elpidophoros went straight to Xenophontos Monastery, where he was welcomed by Abbot Alexios.

The Archbishop and the group then visited Philotheou Monastery, where they were welcomed by Abbot Nikodemos. Abp. Elpidophoros noted that the Archdiocese of America has a special connection to Philotheou through the person of Elder Ephraim, who was abbot of Philotheou before he came to found monasteries in North America.

The group was then welcomed at Simonopetra, Karakallou, and Pantocrator Monasteries, and ended its trip with a visit to Iveron Monastery’s Cell of St. Anna.

The Archbishop and the pilgrimage group then left the Holy Mountain and returned to Thessaloniki where, on January 28, “he is set to deliver a keynote address at an event commemorating the Day of Jewish Martyrs of the Holocaust. During this event, he will be honored with the title of an honorary member of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki,” reports the Orthodox Times.

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