By Emilios Polygenis
In a joint communiqué issued by the representatives of four Monasteries of the Holy Community of Mount Athos, they denounced the Russian interference and the violation of the self-governance status of the St Panteleimon Monastery.
In particular, yesterday, the Holy Community of Mount Athos convened to discuss the recent developments in the Ukraine issue.
Moreover, the representatives of the Monastery of Great Lavra, the Monastery of Iveron, the Koutloumousiou Monastery, and the Esphigmenou monastery, delivered a common opinion on the recent developments, as set out in the record of discussions.
According to their recently published letter of opinion, they reported that the Russian side deliberately caused turbulence, which can be identified in the statements issued by the Patriarchate of Moscow and its associates. Those statements made clear that the believers of the Russian Patriarchate were prohibited from receiving the Divine Communion in the Monasteries of Mount Athos except of the St Panteleimon Monastery.
Furthermore, according to the joint communiqué of the four Monasteries, the Patriarchate of Moscow urged wealthy Russians to invest in Russian monasteries and not in Athonite Monasteries, while recalling that the Russians have already invested about 200 million in Mount Athos.
Initially, a first initiative was taken towards a moderate attitude “to maintain peace and prayer in Mount Athos”, and to avoid exposing Mount Athos to hazards and turbulence. “This matter, of course, does not in any way fall within the competence of Mount Athos,” it is highlighted.
In a context of taking a moderate position, the Holy Community decided not to participate in the enthronement of the new Primate of the Church of Ukraine, Epiphanius.
They also referred to the visits by members of the Church of Ukraine of various ranks, who were provided with letters of recommendation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
It is also noted that “these visits would have been avoided or would have taken place much later if there was no immediate and devious involvement of the Russians in the internal issues of Mount Athos”.
They pointed out that Mount Athos was unnecessarily at the heart of this conflict, as if it were a “trophy”, while it is ignored that Mount Athos is under the canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is governed as an autonomous polity within the Greek Republic.
In addition, the Patriarch of Moscow permitted the Russian pilgrims to receive the Divine Communion exclusively at the St Panteleimon Monastery.
The decision of the Church of Russia not to admit to the St Panteleimon Monastery clerics from the Church of Ukraine and not to pray in common in liturgies attended by clerics from the Church of Ukraine, reminded us of the letters written with similar arguments by zealots of the Esphigmenou Monastery during the 70s. There has always been something which is not to somebody’s liking. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has always been the pretext, despite the fact that the Russian Church not only talks with the Pope, but also accepts Catholic priests in joint celebrations of the Divine Liturgy.
Concerns also arise that St Panteleimon Monastery tends to be isolated and become a tool in the hands of foreigners to the Mount Athos polity. “Neither the St Panteleimon Monastery nor the rest of the Monasteries of Mount Athos must fall into this trap”.
In their letter of opinion, the Monasteries said that Mount Athos must be free from outside interference. They demanded that the Saint Panteleimon Monastery should express its opposition to the mandate of the Patriarchate of Moscow regarding the Divine Liturgy of the Russian flock and should cease the commemoration of the two primates during the liturgy in accordance with the Charter of Mount Athos.
Finally, they stressed that any change of practice in the letters of recommendation for the clerics coming from Autocephalous Church of Ukraine could not be examined by the Athonite community, because it is contrary to Mount Athos’ Charter.
The letter of recommendation of the Holy Supervision is an obligation of the Holy Community in which the relevant patriarchal document is read, derives from it and is not negotiated.
In addition, it is stressed that the non-granting is an overt challenge and insult to the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Holy Community and the monastery concerned.