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  • Fr. Panagiotes Carras
    Jun 4, 2003
      On Sunday, March 30, 2003, a benefit tea to support the court battle of the fathers of Esphigmenou Monastery, was held at St. Nectarios Church Hall,  Toronto.  About 200 persons attended.  A letter was read from Abbot Methodius of Esphigmenou Monastery.  $18,000 was collected to be sent to the monastery.
      Glory to God for all things!
      At the end of January 2003, the sacred monastery of Esphigmenou on the Holy Mountain of Athos was subject to a blockade, because the fathers there, who do not commemorate the Patriarch of Constantinople, believing that his ecumenical activities compromise his Orthodoxy, resisted an attempt by the Patriarch to evict them. Describing this as an unprecedented move, the Abbot of the monastery.
      Father Methodius, issued a press release on January 29, headed "Patriarch of Constantinople blockades food, heating oil, to monastery in attempt to forcibly evict monks critical of his policies." The monastery had been blockaded on land by Greek and European Union police, and on sea by the coast guard, in an attempt to starve them out. Fr. Methodius commented: "The use of force to accept the faith is a concept that is totally alien to the Orthodox Church. It is not just his [the Patriarch's] teachings, but his actions which are unorthodox, and we cannot accept this." Protopresbyter George Metallinos, a Professor at the University of Athens, has rightly backed the monks. "The monks have an obligation under church law," he contends, "to object to what the Patriarch is doing. This Canon gives the right even to a lay-person to question the Patriarch. According to the Sixth Ecumenical Synod's 15th canon, the monks had an obligation to cease commemorating the Patriarch." At a news conference held on January 27th, Fr. Methodius requested a dialogue with the Patriarch to end the dispute, saying, "We want a peaceful solution to this standoff."  The Patriarch has not responded to the monks' request in this respect.
      It is not only the Esphigmenou monks who are being threatened in this way; eviction orders were also served on monks in sketes dependent on the Pantocrator and Great Lavra monasteries on the mountain.
      The eviction attempts are being challenged in the courts, but Fr. Methodius commented; "We will fight with our prayer-ropes."
      Such was the shock of the sight of a Christian Archpastor seeming to invoke military force against men who have dedicated their lives to the monastic life that reports of the blockade were carried even in the secular press here in the West.
      Greece's highest administrative court is said to have issued a "sharp rebuke" to His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, by lifting the blockade on March 13,2003. The Greek Court is to try the legality of the eviction order in a mid-October session, and has ordered that, until then, the fathers are to be allowed free access.
      During the period when the monastery was blockaded, a 25 year old monk.  Father Tryfonas, was killed when, in attempting to avoid the police blockade, he drove a tractor off the road and into a ravine.
      As Orthodox Christians we can assist Abbot Methodius and the persecuted monks of Esphigmenou firstly by our prayers—especially by asking Supplicatory Canons to be served for them, and in our private prayers. In addition we can make use of modem methods of communication available to us—email, fax or telephone—and contact Abbot Methodius, assuring him of our prayerful support. We can then make respectfully worded entreaties to Patriarch Bartholomeos in Constantinople, and the appropriate government authorities in Greece. Express your opposition to the unchristian embargo of food, medicine and fuel for the monastery, and the Patriarch's demand for the monks' eviction. Emphasize that basic and fundamental concepts of Human Rights and Religious Freedom for the monks are being violated, the eviction order is illegal under the Charter governing the Holy Mountain, and that such actions as denying food, medical supplies and heating fuel brings shame and dishonour, not only to the Orthodox Faith and all Orthodox, but also to the Greek
      government and the Greek people in whose name they govern.
      The following contacts will be useful in this regard:
      His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomeos I
      Rum Aptrikhanesi, 34.220 Fener-Halic, Istanbul, Turkey
      Tel: 0090212 531 96 70-76; Fax: 0090212 534 90 37
      E-mail: melito@...
      Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs
      The Hon. George A. Papandreou
      E-mail: dialogue@...; fax; 00030 210 368 1433
      Under Secretary M. F. A. J. Magriotis e-mail: http://www.magriotis.gr/epikinonia.asp
      Civil Administration of Mt. Athos
      Fax: 0030 23770 23290
      Holy Community Administration, Karyes, Athos
      Fax: 0030 23770 23315
      Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou
      Tel: 0030 23770 237796
      His Excellency the Ambassador of Greece,
      80 MacLaren St. Ottawa, Ontario, K2P-OK6
      Tel: 613-238-6271, Fax: 613-238-5676
      E-mail: embassy@...
      Mr. Nino Gemelli, Chairman, Committee on Petitions, European Parliament, Members' Activities Division, L-2929 LUXEMBOURG and refer to Petition 361/2002  Euro-Ombudsman@...

      You can also send an online petition at: http://www.europarl.eu.int/petition/petition_en.htm

      Ms. Mayland at the Greek desk for the Office of International Religious Freedom: maylandjl@...

      Respectfully submitted,
      +Fr. David Belden