Saturday, 29th December 2012 17:43
By Georgios Theoharis ( http://www.agioritikovima.gr/mitropoleis/14167-anatatos-o-mon)"Persecution" of coenobitic monasticism?
The recent events, which took place in the days before Christmas at the Bishopric of the Holy See of Nafpaktos, on the occasion of the episcopal 'trial' of a Monk have been broadcast internationally.
Once again, the affairs of the famous and vibrant large communal brotherhood of the Monastery of the Transfiguration have been placed under the microscope.The long-standing problem has already been evaluated by many monastic, ecclesiastical and political circles and especially by the Athonite fathers as a new kind of "persecution of coenobitic monasticism", within the bosom of the State Church of Greece.
The recent - unprecedented in orthodox canonical regulations - action/decision of the Standing Holy Synod to "decide" unilaterally and "delete" monks from the monks' records of each monastery is now proof that the modern church history of Greece risks passing in a phase of full "secularisation" of the State Church of Greece.The consequences of this "practice', if it prevails, are expected to be devastating for coenobitic monasticism, despite the pretexts invoked by the "governing" Church.
The proposed "dissolution" of a monastery, when proposed by the enemies of the Church, does not cause the shock caused by the above decision of the Bishop of Nafpaktos, the Archbishop and the Holy Synod, which was accompanied by a simultaneous "ban" on the performance of Services, the imposition of the "penance of excommunication" and the deletion - expulsion of monks from their Monastery, where the Church swore them in to remain "until their death."
A very contradictory and unanswered question is how the "administration" proposes the "dissolution" of the monastery while imposing "penances" and administrative "penalties"?
The strategy of the Bishop of Nafpaktos
The current problems and impasse are the result of a long-term "strategy" of the Bishop, Mr. Ierotheos Vlachos. As already denounced publicly, there are many events that eventually led the Monks to a full failure to perform what the Bishop Mr Ierotheos "demanded." Deposition of the founder of the Monastery, Archimandrite Mr. Spyridon Logothetis, from the position of Abbot.
Successive elections to elect a new Abbot and members of the Monastic Council, pressures for illegal cash "withholdings" and percentages (translate: commissions) for implemented projects, administrative penalties and penances of all kinds, involvement of the Holy Synod, "blackmailing" of the monks to leave the monastery, illegal deprivation of any salary to the priest monks, false and defamatory circulars, accusatory documents and slanderous reports of the Bishop in every direction, etc.
Thus, a long-standing false accusation of "defiant" and "unruly" monks was studiously created, which continues to be presented every time to any competent church or other authority, the justice, services etc., reaching the unprecedented proposal-decision of the local Bishop Ierotheos, the Archbishop and the Holy Synod for the "dissolution" of the monastery!
The political dimension of the problem
The Athonite Fathers are concerned with what they see and are watching with great interest the developments of the unprecedented persecution of the coenobitic Brotherhood of the Transfiguration Monastery in Nafpaktos.
The whole issue has now assumed clearly political dimensions, especially since His Beatitude, the Archbishop Ieronymos, has already been involved on an institutional level, as President of the SHS, but also because journalists present the Bishop of Nafpaktos as the key person in the close environment of the Archbishop. The responsibilities for any developments now lie personally with the First in command, the Archbishop Ieronymos.
Moreover, the "pressure" to the Ministry of Education, which has exclusive political responsibility to perform the "desires" of the Greek Church as the institutional stakeholder of the Greek State, have been incredibly annoyed the Minister, Mr. Con. Arvanitopoulos, who in no case seems to personally want take such a historical decision on the "dissolution" of a populous and internationally famous monastery and that for a "personal whim", as heard in the corridors of the Ministry of Education.The fact that, during the ministership of Ms Anna Diamantopoulou, the issue of the "dissolution" was put on hold is attributed by journalists to the personal and political "refusal" of Ms Diamantopoulou, which certainly has been politically approved by the now Minister, Mr Con. Arvanitopoulos.
In no case does the Ministry appear to lightly choose to become politically aligned with "the administration" and "against" Monasticism nationwide, because the issue is now threatening to expand into a rampant "pogrom", if the abrupt "dissolution" of coenobitic monasteries unilaterally by any ecclesiastical leadership is applied by virtue of a kind of 'res judicata'.
The probable real causes of the proposed "dissolution"
But what is really happening behind this "persecution" against the Monastery of Nafpaktos? The claim that this "persecution" represents a new beginning, so that the "Administrative Church" as a legal entity of public law can "dissolve" all large and active monasteries in Greece is likely.
It has already been heard, and was recently published, that the causes of the "conflict" in Nafpaktos are primarily economic, but also that the Monks of Nafpaktos could not "meet these demands", be they legal or illegal.
The many judicial cases, which will obviously weigh down the overall ecclesiastical climate for a long time yet, favour this explanation. But they do not explain at all the fixation and involvement of the central "administrative Church" and the Archbishop and not give an explanation that would satisfy an experienced analyst.Is it possible that the issue has arisen because the Bishops, the Archbishop and the Standing Holy Synod see that the time of separation of the Church from the State is approaching and that they will lose their lucrative income from the Greek government?
Do certain senior church stakeholders believe that by trying to "tear apart" the Monasteries, this will mean they that they will later "appropriate" their properties?
On the other hand, in the case of the scientist monks of the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Nafpaktos, there is another remarkable dimension.
The continuous presence of many young people in the Monastery, the intense spiritual and social charitable activities of its monks, the operation of an International Conference Centre, a radio station, a youth camping etc. showed the spirit of modern Orthodox Monasticism, which, besides traditional monastic duties, did not "fear" scientific dialogue with scientists of international recognition, with European and other universities, students, clergy of other denominations and even other religions. Perhaps this missionary method of modern Orthodox Monasticism was what most annoyed the "official administrative Church"?
Many would like to hear today officially the opinion of the Archbishop, as President of the Holy Synod, on these disputed questions... The anachronistic excommunications and penances unacceptably issued 'behind closed doors', cannot convince anyone in twenty-first century society.
The responsibility of the Holy Synod (SHS) of the Church of Greece
Even without being based on canonical regulations, the policy on the issuing of decisions by the non-competent Standing Holy Synod (SHS) on matters of the internal administration of sees is completely inexplicable.The issues with the Transfiguration Monastery in Nafpaktos assume particular importance because they have already been publicly associated with "economic" demands by the Bishop, and therefore one cannot invoke "spiritual" reasons for the issuance by the SHS of "penalties" and "penances"with the pretext of intellectual issues, such as "obedience", "excommunication" and such.
All credibility and trust is compromised and lost when the decisions are made by the administration of the Church in "closed" sessions, without consultation or presence of representatives of the monks of the monastery, without any hearing and apology, without observance of procedure, without even informing the Christian people of the region of what is discussed, who suggests what and how adecision is taken.
The Archbishop of Athens today is the first and only one in history who commits the "crime" to propose to legally "dissolve" a large Orthodox coenobitic Monastery of such nationwide and international renown.
Likewise, the Holy Synod of Bishops is unique in modern history in suggesting to a government the legal "dissolution" of a large Orthodox coenobitic Monastery, which not even conquerors of a different religion did. Even the monasteries that "closed" during the Bavarian rule were just those that numbered less than five monks or nuns.
The solution to the problem
1. To set aside any "promises" and "commitments" for personal favours, and directly withdraw from the Ministry of Education the request of the SHS for the "dissolution" of the Transfiguration Monastery, a monastery already "vindicated" by one hundred and fifty (150) Judiciary Decisions and to immediately cease the "persecution" of the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Nafpaktos.
2. The Archbishop and the Standing Holy Synod should immediately withdraw the "penances of excommunication" imposed on the Monks and not interfere with their worship of the Lord Jesus Christ and God in monastic services and masses.