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Fight between monks in Esphigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos

29 July 2013 / 21:07:19  GRReporter
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After a pause of several years, Esphigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos has again become the scene of violent disputes and even beating between monks. They are members of the old and the new brotherhood and they cannot come to an agreement as to whom the monastery belongs.
 
Today’s conflict began when monks from the new brotherhood, who have obtained a warrant for the right to settle there, tried to enter the monastery. The monks of the old brotherhood who were there reacted sharply and sources claim that a monk was wounded. The Greek police had to intervene to stop the clashes.

"An attempt was made in the morning to execute a forced decision of the court in Halkidiki, which provides for the emptying of the building. A group of monks from Esphigmenou Monastery attacked the bailiff who had gone on site to implement the decision along with a group of citizens. They threw explosives at him," said Aristos Kasmiroglou, administrative governor of Mount Athos.

The police in the region remain in a state of readiness, and the prosecutor’s office in Thessaloniki has been informed of the case. Neither the police nor the judicial authorities have issued so far an official message in connection with the developments.

photos: from the monks’ blog entitled "Our camp is being attacked" - esphigmenou.blogspot.gr

For their part, the monks of the old brotherhood claim that they have been fully entitled not to leave the monastery. "In the morning, eight persons arrived in Karies (the capital of Mount Athos – author’s note) by sea and came to our camp. They came to break open the door to get us out and take us to the representation. There was a small police unit in the region too," said Ilias Moraitis, who is responsible for the communications of Esphigmenou Monastery.

photo: from the monks’ blog entitled "Our camp is being attacked" - esphigmenou.blogspot.gr

He added, "The monks of Esphigmenou Monastery who were in the camp and were able to defend it threw a few objects from the inside, we are anticipating the intervention of the prosecutor of Thessaloniki. We expect the police to provide a reasonable and peaceful solution, otherwise events which will stain the image of Greece abroad will follow."

Moraitis states that they had received the order to empty their monastery last week. According to him, it is being implemented in order to make repairs and to present documents for them under the National Strategic Reference Framework. Last but not least, he claims that attempts to steal valuables from the property of the monastery have also been made.

The fight for Esphigmenou Monastery dates back to 2006. Seven people were injured during the clashes between the monks who were enemies with each other at that time. The monastery had been the scene of the conflict between the Orthodox Church and the monks-zealots who oppose the attempted convergence between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, which had started in 1970. The monks of Esphigmenou Monastery had curtailed the canonical communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1964, because of the meeting of Patriarch Athenagoras at the time with Pope Paul VI. One of the most apparent responses of a large number of monasteries was that they had stopped mentioning the Ecumenical Patriarch’s name in their prayers but none of them had separated from the other monasteries.

The only exception was Esphigmenou Monastery which, today, does not recognize the authority of the Holy Mountain and the leadership of the monastic republic. The monks in it respect the Julian calendar, consider the rest of the monks as disconnected with the Orthodox Church and perceive themselves as the only representatives of Orthodoxy. Their motto is "Orthodoxy or death."

Tags: SocietyEsphigmenou MonasteryMonksMount AthosConflictEcumenical Patriarch
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