Numerous media sources on July 29, e.g. CBS News, reported that the rebel monks occupying the sanctuary of Mount Athos in northern Greece attacked bailiffs who came to evict them, hurling rocks and petrol bombs. The mount’s Esphigmenou Monastery, a World Heritage Site, has for years been held by ultra-orthodox monks who reject Eastern Orthodoxy’s current Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (also rendered Vartholomeos) over his efforts to improve relations with the Vatican, Times of Malta informs us. The NFTU website, with a kicker of “True Orthodox and Ecumenical News” (the word “true” being a tip-off that they actually reject ecumenicalism), runs a statement from the rebel monks asserting that no bombs were thrown, but that security forces showed up with a bulldozer that “attacked the property and attempted to smash down the front door.”
The Enet Greek news site provides these details under the unsettling subhead of “Holy War”:
About 100 monks in the 1,000-year-old monastery have been involved in a years-old dispute with the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, over his efforts to improve relations with the Vatican.
The conflict escalated in 2002 with Vartholomeos declaring the monks of Esphigmenou an illegal brotherhood and ordering their eviction. The monks have defied these court orders to leave the monastery and allow church-appointed replacements to take over the site and the Karyes offices.
A new brotherhood of monks has successfully obtained an injunction under which the rebel monks must vacate the monastery so that restoration work can begin with €500,000 in European Union funds, a source of funding which the rebel monks also reject.
Another website seemingly sympathetic to the Esphigmenou rebels, OrthodoxChristianity.net, runs a statement saying they are opposed to “Orthodox concessions to Roman Catholic heresy.” With the Islamic world seemingly on the brink of a Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian war—already well under way in Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, and signs of it spreading to Lebanon, Egypt and Bahrain—it’s almost comforting to be reminded that such pathologies are by no means exclusive to Islam.
See our last post on monastic donnybrooks
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