Vladimir Yakunin, the head of the Foundation of St Andrew the First-Called, and President of Russian Railways, said that the actions of the Greek judicial system in respect to Archimandrite Ephrem, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, were unjust. On Tuesday night, on the TV channel Культура (Kultura: Culture), he said, “We appeal to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, the First Hierarchs of all the Local Churches, and to all Orthodox people. We believe that this is an outrageous injustice, and we must not only pray, but also show that we aren’t going to tolerate this injustice”. As was reported at the end of last week, a court ordered the arrest of Fr Ephrem because of economic crimes. Over the weekend, police arrived at Vatopedi Monastery to arrest Archimandrite Ephrem. However, after examining the abbot, doctors accompanying the police decided that they shouldn’t arrest him, because of his poor health. On Tuesday, police arrested Archimandrite Ephrem and took him away from the Holy Mountain. Our source at Vatopedi Monastery told us, “We don’t know where the Greek police took Fr Ephrem”.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Foundation of St Andrew issued another strong defence of Fr Ephrem, being surprised that the Greek justice system authorities ignored the unanimously adopted resolution of the Holy Community (Ιερά Κοινότητα (Iera Kinotita)), the governing body of Mount Athos, in defence of Archimandrite Ephrem, and the support for him “expressed by tens of thousands of Orthodox people on social networks on the Internet. The consistency and perseverance exhibited by [Fr Ephrem] whilst under persecution suggests that this minor legal dispute involving Vatopedi Monastery with the Greek state has become a pretext to act against the basis of values of European society and an attack on the Orthodox Church, whose spiritual centre is Mount Athos”. The statement called on believers “to show their outrage at the inhumane decisions of the Court of Appeal of Athens, and, following the example of Orthodox believers in Russia and Cyprus, to pickets in front of the Embassies of Greece and EU wherever they might be”.
Earlier, the Foundation of St Andrew the First-Called sponsored the tour of the Belt of the Mother of God to Russia. Typically, once a year, the Vatopedi fathers take the reliquary with the Belt to one or another Greek city in response to urgent requests of the faithful. Previously, Vatopedi Monastery, the largest monastery in Greece, refused all requests from other countries to bring the reliquary there, particularly, from the United States and Romania. They made an exception for Russia. The belt was in Russia from 20 October to 28 November; during this time, almost 3 million people venerated the relic, including top leaders of the Russian state.
Yuri Shuvalov, the Deputy Secretary of the Presidium of the General Council of the United Russia Party, the head of the Russian Social-Conservative Union called the situation surrounding the arrest of Archimandrite Ephrem, the abbot of the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos, was alarming. Shuvalov said to Interfax, “The situation surrounding Fr Ephrem is very disturbing and raises many questions; this is primarily due to the fact that this lawsuit has dragged on for so long, but when Father Ephraim visited Russia to bring the Belt of the Mother of God, things took on a heightened quality… until his arrest”. He drew attention to the fact that the elder (старец) devoted most of his time to prayer, and to put him in custody isn’t only an insult to Fr Ephrem, but to the entire Orthodox world. Shuvalov emphasised, “We believe that this is a humiliating situation”. He pointed up that it’s now important to join our efforts in order to prevent the triumph of injustice. Rather clearly, he said, “The Russian Social-Conservative Union will do everything possible to help Igumen Ephrem, and Russia as a whole can’t remain indifferent in this matter”.
Last night, a demonstration demanding the release of Archimandrite Ephrem, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, occurred at the Greek Embassy in Nicosia. Local media said that several thousand people attended the rally. People held posters with Fr Ephrem’s picture, held lit candles, and sang Christmas hymns. Many chanted, “Axios!” (Worthy) The protestors gave the Greek Ambassador a letter for the Greek authorities, demanding the release of Igumen Ephrem.
The Union of Orthodox Citizens (SPG) spoke in support of Archimandrite Ephrem, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos. An official statement passed to Interfax on Thursday stated, “The SPG is concerned about the condition of Igumen Ephrem, a contemporary confessor of Orthodoxy, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, as he’s persecuted by the Greek authorities”. The SPG went on to say that Fr Ephrem brought the Belt of the Most Holy Mother of God, one of the greatest Orthodox relics, to Russia, where more than three million people venerated it in about a month’s time. They stated, “Igumen Ephrem has repeatedly said that the Russian people now returning to the Church are the future of world Orthodoxy. It seems like the words and mission of Fr Ephrem in Russia were the true reason for his persecution, all the other absurd charges, such as the land deal between the monastery and the Greek government, are only an excuse”. The SPG regards the case against Fr Ephrem as a response of “anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox forces who challenge the unprecedented and essential turning of our society and our state to their spiritual roots”.
Sergei Rudov, the head of the Foundation Friends of Vatopedi Monastery, a member of the RF Public Chamber, stated why he believed that Archimandrite Ephrem, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery, is undergoing persecution. He said on the TV channel NTV, “I think that there are two main reasons for this situation. Firstly, there’s the same old song from the EU for Greece to pressure Athos to open its borders, and abolish the visa system regulated by the Holy Community. Secondly, some fear the growing Russian influence on Mount Athos”. He called the case against the Fr Ephrem far-fetched, “it’s utterly absurd”.
In an interview published on Thursday in Komsomolskaya Pravda, Rudov said, “In the early 20th century, much property in Greece belonged to churches and monasteries. However, in 1920-23, with the expulsion of Greeks from Turkey, many monasteries lost their land to the refugees. Even anti-religious people estimate that the state took land from Vatopedi Monastery now worth no less than eight billion Euros”. He recently visited Greece and met Fr Ephrem. Rudov said, “He’s a very sick man. The cold weather in Russia was a sever trial for him. When he went to Georgia to meet Patriarch Ilya, he almost died. Fr Ephrem needs constant medical attention. However, the Greek police interrogated him for 30 hours. During the interrogation, they said to him, ‘You were in Russia; you chatted with Putin, you talked with Medvedev. However, they won’t help you’”.
An international public committee, Защитим Афон! (Zashchitim Afon: Protecting Athos), was formed in Moscow on Thursday. It happened at the International Foundation of Slavic Literature and Culture, where a meeting of an initiative group to protect Archimandrite Ephrem, the arrested abbot of Vatopedi Monastery, from criminal prosecution, founded the new group. The committee includes a number of public organisations, including the International Foundation of Slavic Literature and Culture, the Council of Orthodox Public Organisations, the War Veterans Group Вера и доблесть (Vera i doblest: Faith and Courage), the War Veterans Group Отвага (Otvaga: Valour), the public movement Марш против коррупции (Marsh protiv korruptsii: March against Corruption) the Ночные волки (Nochnye Volki: Night Wolves) MC, and the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods.
In the near future, they decided to make public actions in order to draw public attention to the actions of the Greek authorities in harassing the Athonite fathers, and in persecuting Fr Ephrem. In particular, they agreed to initiate a public and international legal investigation, дела архимандрита Ефрема (dela arkhimandrita Efrema: the Case of Archimandrite Ephrem) and appealed to the Russian political leadership to “articulate their position in this matter”. The Committee intends to take part in a series of authorized rallies in front of the Greek Embassy in Moscow on 30 and 31 December.
On Thursday, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias expressed his concern over the detention of Archimandrite Ephrem, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos. In a message to Greek President Karolos Papoulias posted on the official MP website, His Holiness wrote, “I consider it my duty to bring our common pain to the Greek President, and I ask him to release Archimandrite Ephrem, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, from custody”. Patriarch Kirill noted that he was very concerned by the news about the arrest of Fr Ephrem.
His Holiness wrote in his letter, “I don’t question the authority of the Greek justice system, and I hope for a fair and objective decision regarding the property dispute centring on Vatopedi Monastery. At the same time, I’m bewildered why you’re imprisoning [Fr Ephrem] before the trial, he doesn’t pose a threat to society and repeatedly expressed his willingness to cooperate with the investigation”. Patriarch Kirill emphasised that poor state of Archimandrite Ephrem’s health is of particular concern to him, as the Greek police didn’t consider that when they took him into custody. His Holiness said, “In Russia, Byelorussia, the Ukraine, Moldova, and in all the countries whose people receive spiritual nourishment from the Orthodox Church of Russia, millions of believers are concerned about the actions taken by the police against a celebrated abbot of a monastery on the Holy Mountain, one who’s well-known throughout the Orthodox world, especially as it happened during the days when the Orthodox Greeks celebrate Christmas”.
28/29 December 2011
If there was ever a “wrong” time for the Greek authorities to nick Fr Ephrem, it’s now. The only worst time would be if they tired a similar stunt at Easter time. It’s clear that the Americans are scared that the Russians could walk away with their erstwhile Greek clients. Don’t forget… the CIA fomented a coup against an Ecumenical Patriarch in 1948. The arrest of Fr Ephrem happened only a relatively short time after Biden went to the Phanar. Biden’s a crude Russophobe, after all, one of his mentors in his youth was a pro-Ustaše Croat RC priest and Biden’s one of the cheerleaders of the Uniate mobs in the Western Ukraine. If you take into account the rumours floating around inside the Beltway about Hillary Clinton and Biden switching jobs, that’s not good news for American foreign policy. Biden’s a boob.
The wise thing to do right now is for the USA to sit back and let the pot simmer in Russia. NO! They can’t do that… Americans are arrogant snot-nosed pricks who get their noses out of joint if you don’t kiss their naked bums and loudly proclaim to all that you just love doing so, and you just want to keep on doing it. On top of it, Americans are self-centred liars and poltroons. They “won” the Cold War! America brutalises any country that won’t kiss its arse… except for those who have THE BOMB. Kim Jong-Il and the imams were NOT crazy. They noticed that the Americans leave people with the Bomb alone.
This has led to a grass-roots movement in Orthodoxy… one more powerful than the “For Fair Elections” crowd. Look at the piece about the rallies planned for the Greek Embassy tomorrow and Saturday. If it were in the USA, the equivalent organisations involved would be the VFW, American Legion, NEA, Hell’s Angels, the PTA, the League of Women Voters, the Moose, and the AFL-CIO. That’s what Biden did… he unified people by attacking a beloved religious leader. It’s too late for the USA to pull back… all too many of the decision-makers either are on holiday or tied up with domestic politics.
I’ll tell you what’ll happen tomorrow in Moscow… it’ll be pure political theatre, and VVP’s a past master of that. Aleksandr the Surgeon and the Night Wolves will come roaring in on their Harley Hogs by the Greek Embassy with flags flying… there’ll be batiushkas riding bikes too! Guess who’ll be amongst them, easing on down the road on his Harley trike? You got it… V V Putin. It’ll be grand political drama and VVP will be the star. They’ll have nationalists with crosses, monks with icons, socialists with placards, commies with red banners, and just plain folks. Only about 5 percent of the Russian population wants to ape the Neoliberal Corporatism of the USA… the oligarch thieves and their minions. If VVP thinks the oligarchs are of no further use to him, he’ll dump ‘em with no further ado. The next six months in Russia bid fair to be “interesting”… and we all know what the Chinese say about those…
Oh, one last thing… you’re hearing SILENCE from Serge Schmemann and Sophia Kishkovsky. There’s NOTHING on the OCA or ROOCR official websites… Potapov, Fathausen, Webster, and Lyonyo are “deer caught in the headlights”. They’re all in the deep kimchi with the Radical Right… and now, the Mother Church is moving against Godless American Hegemonism (“The Almighty Dollar is God and Jayzuss is His Prophet”). They’re in the deep doo-doo and they know it. I wonder how it’s going to play out… we’ll have to see, no?