During the paschal period, the Holy Metropolis of Belgium had the honor and blessing to welcome the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Esfigmenos on Mount Athos, Bartholomew, from April 24 to 26.
The first stop of the visit was the Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Asten, the Netherlands, where the Abbot and his entourage were received by the Elder Ioanna, worshiped at the Katholikon, performed a memorial service at the tomb of the late founder Abbess Maria, were guided around the premises and attended a luncheon, while they had the opportunity to visit the hagiography and the kiroplasteio of the Monastery.
The Abbot and his entourage then went to Brussels where they were welcomed by Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium and Exarch of the Netherlands and Luxembourg, at the seat of the Metropolis, while the next morning, on April 25, they had the opportunity to visit the Medieval city of Ghent and to be guided to the Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Babon, where the famous work “The Lamb of God” (L ‘Agneau mystique) of the great Flemish painter Jan van Eyck is exhibited.
In the afternoon of the same day, in the framework of the “Orthodox Logos” speech cycle, at the Ambiorix Orthodox Center, Abbot Bartholomew spoke on the topic “The joy of the Resurrection”. The following April 26 he visited the city of Liège and the Orthodox Parish of Saint Barbara there and then departed with his entourage for Greece.
During the visit, the Metropolitan of Belgium had the opportunity to be extensively informed about the history, the truth, and the developments regarding the case of the restoration of legal order in the Esphigmenou Monastery and the struggle for the return of the canonical Brotherhood to the sacred institution.
“The case of the Esphigmenou Monastery is affecting our culture! As Christians, we tolerate a spiritual center being in the hands of non-ecclesiastical people. As Europeans and Greeks, we allow a monument of world culture and its great relics to be in danger. It is not possible in the 21st century for one of the Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monasteries of Mount Athos, with a long history and sanctified faces to adorn its monologue, to be in the hands of indictable, uncontrolled, and uncanonical alleged clergymen, who violate not only the Charter of Mount Athos, disrupting the ecclesiastical order, but also the laws of the Greek State… In an era of wars and the abolition of values, Mount Athos must scatter everywhere the light of the Resurrection and the issue of Esphigmenou is a black cloud that overshadows… May God enlighten those responsible for the Greek State to respect the sanctity of the area, the ecclesiastical and cultural danger created by the squatters of the Monastery, and to apply the provisions of the law… We are on the side of justice, on the side of the canonical Bishop of Oros, our Ecumenical Patriarch, and the canonical Fraternity of Esfimenou persecuted by the squatters”.