Voices from Russia

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Church of Greece Protests Pre-Trial Detention of Igumen Ephrem

Igumen Ephrem (1955- ) of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos… the image is from Abba Ephrem’s recent trip to Russia, that’s Vladimir Yakunin (1948- ) in the rear


On Thursday, the Holy Synod of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece called for the release of Igumen Ephrem, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, who’s currently under arrest on real estate fraud charges. It stated, “Our church respects the rulings of the judicial system and doesn’t like to interfere in its sphere of responsibility. Nevertheless, together with many believers, [the Church] expresses the sympathy of all its members to the embattled abbot, and hopes that they’ll reconsider the possibility of his release from custody”. The Cypriot-born 56-year-old Igumen Ephrem faces charges of involvement in a criminal scheme under which the Greek government swapped cheap farmland for costly Athens real estate, to the favour of the Vatopedi Monastery. He said he isn’t guilty. The First Hierarch of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos Liapis of Athens and all Greece plans to visit Igumen Ephrem in prison.

On 29 December, the first Hierarch of the MP, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias, urged Greek President Karolos Papoulias to release Igumen Ephrem, who was arrested on 24 December {The cops went to Athos to arrest him on 24 December, he was deemed unfit to travel. Igumen Ephrem turned himself in to the coppers on Tuesday 27 December: editor}. In November, Ephrem led a delegation from Vatopedi Monastery that brought one of the holiest Christian relics, the Belt of the Most Holy Mother of God, to Russia for the first time in history. Abbot Ephrem’s arrest sparked a diplomatic row between Moscow and Athens.

The Church of Greece is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches in the Orthodox Christianity. Mount Athos is under the jurisdiction of another autocephalous church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The EP denounced the MP’s “interference” in the case. A number of Greek legal experts have questioned whether the actions of the police on Mount Athos were legal. Athos is part of Greek territory, but it’s autonomous and self-governing. Its monks are Greek citizens, but a special warrant issued by the procurator is required to arrest a person on Athos.


Today, Thursday 12 January 2012, the Standing Holy Synod (SHS) of the Church of Greece came together for its third Session for the month of January under the presidency of His Beatitude Ieronymos Liapis, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece. During the course of the Session, the SHS confirmed the Proceedings of the previous Session. The SHS concerned itself with the detention of Archimandrite Ephrem, Abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, especially with regard to the time of its announcement and execution during the days of a great Christian Feast, and with regard to the violation of sacred institutions and the non-observance of the statutes of the autonomous administration of the Holy Mount.

These facts have crucially harmed the authority of our Church and have justifiably caused sorrow to the Orthodox Christian flock both in Greece and abroad and, at the same time, provoked considerable perplexity, along with harsh criticism, from noted legal specialists. Our church respects the rulings of the judicial system and doesn’t like to interfere in its sphere of responsibility, even though at different times there have been disagreements over the soundness of this-or-that decision. Nevertheless, together with many believers, [the Church] expresses the sympathy of all its members to the embattled abbot, and hopes that they’ll reconsider the possibility of his release from custody in a more impartial manner. In this spirit, His Beatitude the Archbishop will visit [Igumen Ephrem] at the prison of Korydallos.

(Last four paragraphs deal with other matters)

From the Standing Holy Synod

 12 January 2012




Editor’s Note:

“The Cheese stands alone”… the EP stands isolated by its lickspittle subservience to Langley. Even though the Church of Greece is dependent on Greek state funds to pay its clergy, it refused to cut Igumen Ephrem adrift. This means that any chance of a Great all-Orthodox Council has dissipated into thin air. There never was much substance to such talk. Then, when the Greek government cut its funding for Chambésy, it not only virtually shut down that EP facility, it cut the throat of any notional “Council”.

If you hear any nonsense from SVS, konvertsy punks, or OCA fanatics about an upcoming “Great Council”, you should openly laugh in their faces and hold them up to public scorn. It ain’t happening, kids… there’s no gelt to put it on, there’s been no planning of the details, there’s no venue, and Bart’s pissed off the entire Orthodox world by his nasty kicking of an Athonite elder at the Americans’ insistence. In short, it’s not going to happen any time soon (or any time later).

Sic transit gloria mundi…



The Canonical Robbery of Patriarch Bartholomew


This week’s events have quite clearly pigeon-holed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and his policies. In fact, the EP Holy Synod refused to intercede for the persecuted Archimandrite Ephrem. True, the Synod expressed regret about Fr Ephrem’s imprisonment, but they refused to ask the Greek authorities to release him, saying they didn’t have the authority to interfere in the activities of the secular authorities, they didn’t have full information on the affair, and weren’t familiar with the court documents. Thus, Patriarch Bartholomew not only repudiated ancient church property rights (in fact, that’s what the dispute centres around), but he also refused to aid his brother in distress.

Apparently, we do indeed live in the last days. If the early Christians did everything that they could to ransom their brethren, to aid them when they were imprisoned, and the bishops did all that they could in the times of persecution to relieve the suffering of Christians caused by the Roman judicial authorities, now, Patriarch Bartholomew, like the well-known figure in the Gospels, washes his hands. Moreover, he castigates the MP, saying that Athos is solely his concern, and that the MP has no warrant to interfere into the affairs of his canonical territory. Let me ask you, did the Patriarch of Constantinople imprison Archimandrite Ephrem? Or, are Church courts investigating his affairs? Since when was the court system of the Hellenic Republic canonically responsible to Patriarch Bartholomew? What about the ancient right of intercession, which goes back to the times of the Muscovite Tsars and Patriarchs, and then passed to the Russian Tsars and the Holy Governing Synod (who intervened for the persecuted Greeks before the Turkish authorities), so why is there talk of interference on the canonical territory of the EP? Such an attitude leaves no doubt to the supposition that the affair surrounding Fr Ephrem’s not only anti-Russian in character (properly speaking, the real estate questions are an excuse not a reason), but that the Patriarch of Constantinople takes a public hand in this dirty game.

This week, Patriarch Bartholomew made yet another objectively anti-Russian step. He met with representatives of the schismatic “Abkhazian Church” and held talks with them about the future of the Abkhaz diocese. He clearly hinted that the EP was ready to take jurisdiction over the rebel Abkhaz diocese, and thus challenged not only the MP, but also the Georgian Patriarchate, who holds legitimate jurisdiction in Abkhazia (although due to political circumstances, he’s incapable of exercising his jurisdiction). The MP displayed canonical scruples and did not send any representatives to Abkhazia, especially not bishops. If, indeed, Abkhazia comes under the omofor of the EP, it’ll be an open canonical robbery. Such a policy is quite typical of the EP, as one sees in its canonical interference in Estonia, its rather dubious manoeuvring vis-à-vis the Ukraine, and its unwillingness to recognise the presence of the MP in Western Europe and other lands. All this looks rather petty and short-sighted at a time when Orthodoxy needs to marshal its forces to oppose globalisation, to fight the de-Christianisation of the world. It looks as thought the EP’s provoking a schism in the Orthodox world. Prospects for a so-called Great all-Orthodox Council in this regard are becoming increasingly dimmer.

12 January 2012

Deacon Vladimir Vasilik

Русская народная линия (Russian People’s Line)


Editor’s Note:

The most glaring insult of this situation is that Igumen Ephrem sits in a cell whilst his political counterparts sit free, sipping piña coladas, chasing scantily-clad bimbos, catching every venereal disease known to man. Its “illegal” to “persecute” the pols… the statute of limitations has expired (conveniently) for them… how dare you even suggest such a thing (they DO sound like the OCA/ROCOR First Families, don’t they?). That is, it’s EVIL to impute wrongdoing to the pols, yet, they throw a monk and well-known elder in the slam. He’s not convicted, mind you; he might “commit other offences”. There’s something deeply and obviously WRONG in that. They’re smokin’ some potent wacky weed out there, and I want my share of it!

The Americans leaned on their puppet Bart… and Bart did their bidding, even though it hurt him immensely. Firstly, Bart’s going to get no aid from anyone to reopen Halki. You see, if Bart interferes on the canonical territory of the MP (in Estonia) and Georgia (in Abkhazia), that means that no one’s immune from interference from Langley through its EP proxy. Bart chose to piss on the Mountain and on the Russians… for what? Money from the Americans and the Vatican? Actually, if Bart turned down the Americans, they’d turn off their money spigot, and that would crimp Bart’s style immensely. He’d not go under completely, but he’d suffer a catastrophic drop in funds, which he’d try to recoup from his Greek-American sugar-daddies, in the midst of a full-blown recession. GOOD LUCK…

Indeed, this runs counter to all of the EP’s true interests. However, it shows how deeply the Phanar’s in Langley’s pocket. The chain is VERY short and they’re not averse to pulling it tighter… in public, no less. To be frank, such a dénouement had to happen sooner or later. Look at the bright side of it all… Bart’s revealed for the American lickspittle that he is. Even the Blunder can’t defend him publicly.

As of 12 January 2012, there’s not a peep on either oca.org or the ROCOR official website in support of His Holiness’ principled stand on the Igumen Ephrem affair. They can post about a yolka… but not about an unjustly imprisoned holy elder (it tells you volumes about John Behr, Andrei Psaryov, Alexander Webster, and Vassa Larina, doesn’t it?). Let’s see… the OCA’s “autocephaly” came from the Centre and the ROCOR is an integral part of the Centre… ergo, both bodies had an obligation to have echoed His Holiness’ stance. Note well that they didn’t… and I believe it’s due to such extremist rightwingers as Potapov and Paffhausen. After all, they hang out with Mormons and Moonies… and like DOES call unto to like.

You can’t do much… but you can notice who’s naughty and who’s nice. Don’t send money to the plug uglies… it’s the only thing that they understand. Pass the jug… it’s a goofball world, and it hasn’t gotten any more straight in the last 24…


The MP Chose Not to Respond to the EP Statement Concerning the Vatopedi Affair


The MP chose not to comment on the statement made on by the EP Holy Synod concerning the situation surrounding the arrest of Archimandrite Ephrem, the abbot of Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos. On Wednesday, a source at the MP DECR told Interfax-Religion, “I think that it speaks for itself. All that the MP felt necessary to say in connection with the case is contained in the letter written by Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias to the President of Greece, and in the comments given by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev on 28 December”.

As noted in the statement of the EP Synod, a copy of which is in Interfax’s hands, the members “express their sorrow over the situation that developed” around the case of Archimandrite Ephrem. At the same time, they noted that the EP has “respect for the independence of the judiciary” and it “at all times avoids every involvement on legal matters in process, given that, besides, it has no knowledge of the contents of this particular case file”. In addition, the members of the EP Synod responded to “statements issuing from sister Orthodox Churches on the aforementioned matter”, saying, “The EP reminds everyone that the Holy Mountain is its canonical territory, even though there are Orthodox monks of various nationalities there; this fact doesn’t make it a place of all-Orthodox character {even though it does have monks from all over the Orthosphere… the Phanar isn’t denying that, it’s a statement about jurisdictional matters only: editor}, and it doesn’t allow any form of interference in its affairs by other Autocephalous Churches”.

As reported in December 2011, a Greek court ordered Fr Ephrem’s arrest in connection with an investigation of real estate transactions between Vatopedi and the Greek state in 2008. In late December, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias wrote a letter to Greek President Karolos Papoulias asking for Archimandrite Ephrem’s release from custody, expressing surprise at his pre-trial incarceration as “[Fr Ephrem] doesn’t pose a threat to society and repeatedly expressed his willingness to cooperate with the investigation”. Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, the head of the MP DECR, described the arrest of Fr Ephrem as an attack on Athonite monasticism in particular and on Orthodoxy in general. Previously, influential Russian politicians, the MP, the RF MID, as well as the Foundation of St Andrew the First-Called voiced support for Igumen Ephrem. This was in recognition of the fact that Abba Ephrem was part of the delegation from Vatopedi Monastery that brought the Belt of the Most Holy Mother of God to Russia for a stay lasting from 20 October to 28 November, going to various cities throughout the country, where nearly 3 million people venerated the relic, including top political leaders.

11 January 2012



11 January 2012. Sergei Yolkin’s World: The Holidays Are Over! Come Alive, Folks!

The Holidays are Over! Come Alive, Folks!

Sergei Yolkin



“The morning of 10 January”… in Russia, there’s a long holiday from 1 January to 10 January, from New Year‘s to three days after Russian Christmas. As “liquid refreshment” is a VERY popular component of holiday merrymaking in Russia, society’s only dealing with reality. Would you want to deal with a bunch of hungover employees right after New Year’s and Christmas… I think not!


Chinese Chi Kung will help you get rid of those post-holiday blues and blahs. The exercises have been practised in the Celestial Empire for several thousand years; they reputedly improve health and ramp up energy.

10 January 2012

Sergei Yolkin



Editor’s Note:

As for me, I’m of the “take a shot of Bushmills and see what the morning brings” school. If worst comes to worst (a raging Excedrin Headache #1313 and a mouth that tastes like Secretariat just took a dump in it), there’s always the old reliable Russian cure-all, pickles and rossol (pickle juice). Hey, it works for us, and no one disputes our title as World Champion Hearty Partiers. If all else fails, try a “hair of the dog that bit you”… as Johnny Cash sang, “The beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert”… were you expecting otherwise from me?


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