Riot Police Sent to Mount Athos

LaStampa reports:

The Greek government sent riot police to Mount Athos in Northern Greece this morning, to forcibly remove a group of monks from Esphigmenou monastery, one of the twenty monasteries that form part of this famous Eastern orthodox complex. Esphigmenou monastery is renowned for the war it has waged against the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople which it accuses of betraying the Orthodox Church by opening ecumenical dialogue with the Vatican. A war which has been going on since the 70s. According to an Associated Press report, the traditionalist monks threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police and judicial officials as they attempted to storm the building .Patriarch Bartholomew declared the monks of Esphigmenou an illegal brotherhood in 2002 and ordered their eviction. But the monks ignored this, claiming the Patriarch of Constantinople does not have the power to evict them.

The conflict has been going on for decades: it all began when Paul VI visited Patriarch Athenagoras in 1967. The Esphigmenous community protested against the two religious leaders praying together by famously raising black flags displaying the message “Orthodoxy or death”. Patriarch Bartholomew decided to resolve the question by contacting the Greek Foreign Minister who – according to the complex jurisdiction regulations which apply to the Hagiorite institutions – is in charge of the security of the twenty monasteries which make up the monastic community of Mount Athos. Over the years, the Greek authorities have tried almost everything to get the Esphigmenou community to back down. They even tried cutting off food supplies to the monks, but in vain.

The situation was complicated further after a Greek court granted an injunction allowing the new brotherhood Bartholomew wants installed, to replace the old monastic community. There are 500 thousand Euros at stake, which the European Union could dish out for restoration work to be carried out on the 11th century monastery. But given the current crisis Greece finds itself in, the funding has been yet another cause for tension between the rebel monks and Constantinople.

Local sources say about twenty monks have barricaded themselves inside their monastery. Some supporters apparently joined them this afternoon. On the Esphigmenou monastery website, the monks are calling on faithful to support them and accuse the government of “giving the green light to the police to raid the monastery,” ignoring the fact that “this could cause bloodshed among the monks at Mount Athos.” .

Monks behaving badly.



20 thoughts on “Riot Police Sent to Mount Athos

  1. This has been ongoing for many years! “Monks behaving badly”, puts it mildly! The picture of a monk with a burning cocktail in his hand says it all! But it surely does not present Gospel-driven men and people. One wonders if these monks cannot read Paul in Eph. 6: 12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, etc.” This world is broken and very fallen! Sad again, indeed how long oh Lord will You tarry? Come Lord Jesus!

      1. I actually have my share of EO contacts, and for the most part I am sure they would agree with me on this subject. But the ecclesiastical face of the EO is very broad these days, and who speaks for what is hard to get a grip on sometimes. Note Orthodoxy is more autocephalous than people realize, especially those Christians in the West. Btw, actually too I am somewhat EO friendly for an Anglican, though I am still certainly “neo-Calvinist” and Reformed soteriologically. But as to Christology and the doctrine of the Trinity of God, with Mary as the Theotokos (Council of Ephesus), I am generally with the Orthodox! And I have written about this before, but two books come to mind here that are positive though Western about the EO, they would be: Robert Letham’s book (who is a Brit): Through Western Eyes, Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective, (2007, Mentor Imprint). And the American Donald Fairbairn’s book: Eastern Orthodoxy, Through Western Eyes, (2002, Westminster John Knox Press). It too is written from the perspective of a committed Protestant.

        So get with something of the Ecumenical program and learn something about the EO, rather than poking fun and the ad hom with me! 😉

      2. Wasn’t an ad hominem. I meant precisely what I said, without any ulterior or inferior motive whatsoever.

      3. As I said, no pot shots, simply an opinion without subtext.

        I am dying. Not quite as quickly as I had feared earlier this year, but the fact of the matter is that I will not be enjoying the long retirement that I had envisaged. Whether I go to my judgment next year or the year after is a matter for the Judge, but the likelihood of me being around much longer than that is extremely remote.

        At this point in my life, I have nothing to teach, and much to learn. There are many people whose eloquence is educational, and who need to spread themselves further and wider. I express no opinion further than that.

      4. @Stephen: I am very sorry to hear this, I work everyday now as a hospital chaplain, and so I see this actually quite often, i.e. death & dying. And it is surely a way that we all will go! Myself as an old combat vet, of several engagements and a few wars (Retired RMC officer reserves with over 10 years active service), I am no stranger to seeing death, in mates, and in giving it out to the enemy myself. I wonder sometimes what Christ will say? But, HE is faithful and a tender lover of human souls in His redemptive love & self, and surely for the Christian, the Cross of Christ is a spirituality of redemptive suffering. HE always remains faithful, we can count on that! I will put you on our Lord’s Day (Sunday) prayer list, at the hospital. And btw we all as Christians are learning and teaching with our lives, in themselves! May we learn to do it to the glory of God, and in His Mystical Body of Christ, itself!

        Yours, sincerely in the mercy of God In Christ,
        Fr. Robert

      5. Thank you. I don’t make an issue of it: our fallen nature is such that we die. I’m deeply content with the way of things. Just disappointed that I’m not going to get a chance to do many of the things I wanted to do (unless I hurry up). And the good news is that the prognosis went from “a few months” to “a year or two, maybe more”. This is what I am focusing on.

        But this is why I have absolutely no desire to speak of myself, and only a desire to listen. I post very infrequently now and, indeed, spend very little time sitting in front of my computer, as I’ve quite a long list of things to do. I tend to be online only when I am physically exhausted, or can’t sleep (both side effects of medication that – annoyingly – frequently occur at the same time).

        It’s also why, after a lifetime of being professionally diplomatic, that I’ve decided to adopt plain speaking with a vengeance.

        I shall now return to terse-mode.

      6. > I meant precisely what I said, without any ulterior or inferior motive whatsoever.

        Forgive me for butting in, Stephen, but when I read your comment “I’m sure they’d listen to you” I assumed that it was sarcasm or a joke. Now that I know it was meant seriously, I can only say that I wish I was so optimistic. 🙂

        Anyhow, glad to hear you’ll be with us, at least for a while longer. 🙂 😦

      7. I’m afraid that my default setting is “snark”, and sometimes it slips out unintentionally (probably making up for the decades when it was kept under a very tight rein). It is one of my more noticeable flaws.

        For me, the incident on Athos is an occasion for prayer and fasting.

      8. Being Irish (and born so), I have much more than just a few noticeable flaws! But Jesus loves me anyway! 🙂 Not being English, I don’t have any stiff upper-lip, just lip! 😉 Aye we Irish do speak our minds! Btw, way back when the celibacy of priests, especially Irish ones, was still a matter of choice, the Irish seemed to live better as married. Perhaps monasticism needs more choices here once again? I am speaking of our friends at Mt. Athos! I am being “snarky”! 😉

      9. And btw, after my first combat tour (1968, attached as an RMC with the American Marine 3rd Force Recon in the Nam), I was an English Benedictine for a few years (in my mid 20’s). Overall it was a good experience, but as Luther I surely noted the worst of the monastic life also! Few men are really called to be celibate, especially young to middle-age men. My opinion anyway.

  2. Myself, I learned sometime ago, we get one day at a time! And I am not being flippant or just talkative, but realistic! “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” (Jesus, Matt. 6: 34, RSV) Again, not always an easy lesson, but one we must seek to practice!

    God Bless Mate! 🙂

  3. Anti-Catholics chucking petrol bombs…maybe its the Irish protestants of Belfast in disguise!

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