by Nikos Kolokythas
In a particularly charged period due to political and ecclesiastical developments, the Ecumenical Patriarch arrives tomorrow on Mount Athos.
Articles of the international press, reports from people on Mount Athos, and from the Greek government, admit that the Russian element has largely dominated – in one way or another – in one of the leading Orthodox spiritual cradles, the “orchard of the Virgin Mary”.
The clamor for “invasion” of the Mount Athos by dozens of agents, dressed in the monastic uniform, and for a flood of money through sponsorships supporting Moscow’s positions and against the Ecumenical Patriarch has not ceased.
Certain monasteries, according to abbots and international press reports, have been accused of pouring water into the Russian propaganda mill and maintaining close ties with Moscow’s elite, usually businessmen openly supported by the Kremlin.
Uncritically, without limit or moderation, and ignoring their “spiritual authority”, that is the Ecumenical Patriarch. What the monasteries were interested in was to show work. Ignoring the fact that behind the “homodox” and “fraternal” generous support of the Russians there were other plans and aspirations.
Most monasteries that never hid their sympathy for Moscow now keep an equal distance. Publicly at least. Under these circumstances, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew arrives on Mount Athos tomorrow.
With clear viewpoints in favor of Ukraine and condemning the stance taken by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who continues to “bless” Russian President Putin’s war.
In his interview on state television, Patriarch Bartholomew made this clear: “if I were in the shoes of the Patriarch of Moscow, I would have resigned in protest against the war in Ukraine, even if they had put me in jail.”
The announcement of the Holy Community of Mount Athos the day before yesterday has stirred up a storm of reactions in the ecclesiastical world. In the statement, Mount Athos does not condemn the Russian invasion, it states that they are intensifying their prayers to stop a conflict in Ukraine that started in 2014!
No condemnation of the Russian invasion and just “wishes” to end the war. In the monasteries of Mount Athos, they claim that the joint statement does not express them and they are surprised by the tone of the statement.
“It is outside the line of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of course it is like closing our eyes and not seeing a war caused by the Russian invasion,” notes an abbot of a monastery on Mount Athos who declares his opposition to the “joint” statement.
The drafting of the “tepid” and cautious – in favor of the Russians – statement of Mount Athos is attributed to the Chief of the holy community who comes from the Vatopaidi Monastery. A monastery that has traditionally sided with and supported Russia’s stances in every way possible.
In fact, on Mount Athos they are wondering about the Ecumenical Patriarch’s “tolerance” of such “out-of-line” statements and call on him, now that he is on Mount Athos, “to put the screws on them because of the division they have caused. Let us hope that this time he will do so,” they say.