BEFORE THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR
Nov. 26 - 2012
Dear Mr. Ambassador,
Having learned with interest that, very recently (23-11-2012), the General Assembly of the UN once again elected the USA for a second term in the Human Rights Council of the United Nations,thus recognizing the particular importance and influence hitherto of your country's annual reports on human rights at a global level, let us, please, present you with the following important issues:
 As is known, the ever-greater understanding by modern democratic states and international bodies and organizations of the vital importance of the fundamental human right of religious freedom for smooth coexistence in modern societies has lead to the institutional consolidation of this right through legal texts of increased validity, such as state constitutions and international declarations or conventions. In this way, the protection of religious freedom is achieved today through a broad set of regulations, which, in the case of Greece in particular, as a member state of the European Union, is composed mainly of the provisions of art. 13 of the 1975 Constitution and the regulations of the European Convention on Human Rights (Rome, 1950) relevant to the protection of that right.
The general right of religious freedom, which is an extension and supplement of the right to personal liberty (art. 5 § 1 Const.), is articulated by two elements of equally great importance: freedom of religious conscience (art. 13 § 1 Const.) and freedom of worship (article 13 § 2-3 Const.). The scope of protection of the above rights includes, inter alia, the right of religious self-government, i.e. the non-mandatory imposition of unconstitutional and illegal obligations on the religious sphere of people, when they establish religious institutions, and the free exercise of their religious duties.
 The protection of religious equality in the framework of the Greek legal system is completed by the simultaneous validity of international treaties, such as, among others:
- The Charter of the United Nations (1945), ratified by our country through L. 585/1945, "on the ratification of the Charter of the United Nations signed in San Francisco" (Gov. Gazette Sheet A' 242/1945)
- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on 10 December 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations (art. 2, 18),
- the Declaration of the General Assembly of the United Nations (1981) on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief,
- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), which - primarily with articles 2, 18, 26 and 27 - provides for freedom of religion,
- the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Nice France, 07/12/2000).
 But let us come now to the denounced facts:
The administrative body of the Church of Greece is
the Permanent Holy Synod (PHS), which, this year, is comprised of the following (as members of the 156th conciliar period 2012-2013): Mr. Ieronymos Liapis, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, as President and as members: the Reverend Metropolitans, Messrs: Procopios Tsakoumakas, Kosmas Papachristos, Pavlos Apostolidis, Pavlos Ioannou, Ieremias Fountas, Dionysios Mantalos, Chrysostomos Stavropoulos, Chrysostomos Savvatos, Theophilos Manolatos, Emmanuel Sigalas, Ioannis Tassias and Markos Vassilakis.
With its document No. 4362/2077/23.10.2012, the PHS notified the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Mr. Ierotheos Vlahos, that following correspondence between them, it decided in its meeting on 8.10.2012 to impose on all members of our Monastic Brotherhood, which currently numbers 19 monks, the penalty of "excommunication", i.e. the prohibition to participate in any way in the devotional life and prayer of our Church, by performing the devotional acts envisaged by our faith. In parallel, the same body decided the totally unjustified and extreme measure of removing the two monks, namely Ignatios Stavropoulos and Chrysostomos Trompoukis, who happen to be American nationals, from the monastery's force.
Subsequently, however, with its document No. 4714/2078/23.10.2012 the PHS argued that since the above spiritual sentence was imposed, we could no longer even exercise the administration of our Monastery, which we created ourselves with our own savings and work, and which, according to Greek law, is a legal entity under public law.
Following the above, the PHS asked of the same Metropolitan, and he immediately executed without delay, the appointment of a "Three-Member Administrative and Management Committee of the Monastery", which will now be able to exercise any act of representation and administration of the Monastery we founded and built ourselves, with great efforts and long struggles.
. Regarding all the above however, allow us to inform You of the following:
(a) In accordance with the decisions of the Greek courts, the "penalty of excommunication" when imposed by law, is of a purely religious and not of an administrative nature, which means that it does not entail the deprivation of the administration of a public administrative body, such as our Monastery (Plenary of the Council of State 2976-2991/1996, Council of State 615-616/2004, 685-688/2001, 2154/1988 and many other decisions). Therefore, the above decision of the Synod of the Church of Greece circularly and indirectly attempts to purloin the property of a large administrative organization. It is emphasized that our Monastery was founded by Presidential Decree 601/5.7.1980, which is fully valid and has not been withdrawn or revoked (Gov. Gazette Sheet A 160/15.7.1980).
(b) The provisions of Law 5383/1932, regulating the procedure for the Ecclesiastical Courts were not applied at all. This means that the above severe measure was not taken following the formalities of publicity and the due legal process, precisely because the decision is illegal and would draw the attention of the media. Instead, a clandestine and secret procedure was followed, "by correspondence" (!) as stated in the relevant decision of the Holy Synod.
(c) This illegal sentencing, in such a large scale, i.e. for all members of the Brotherhood, undoubtedly severely affects the inalienable right of all members of our Brotherhood to freedom of worship, the limitations of which are protected by the Constitution itself (Article 13 par. 2 Const.) and the above international treaties.
(d) The above measures were taken without inviting us to present our opinions. The conciliar decision cited, as its "justification", utterly vague "information" that we allegedly violated the law, without inviting us to present our views, as required by the right to a prior hearing under Article 20, paragraph 2 of the Constitution.
Let us finally inform You that similar efforts of the Synod, which took place just a year ago, were considered illegal and were rejected by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs.
For this reason, the Synod now chose this indirect method of attacking our religious freedom, bypassing the Greek State, which obviously would be a barrier to its illegal plans.
as we know, our Country is not, unfortunately, a model for the protection of the right of religious freedom, as indeed confirmed by its 17 convictions by the European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg (cases against Greece:Dimitras, Alexandridis, Vergos, Sofianopoulos, Aga, Thlimmenos, Serif, Tsavachidis, Larissis, Catholic Church "Panagia of Chania", Pentidis, Tsirlis and Couloumbas, Georgiadis, Valsamis, Efstratiou, Manousakis, Monasteries, Kokkinakis).
The above decision of the Synod, governed by a blatantly sacerdotalist spirit, is unfortunately more reminiscent of the religious climate of Asian regimes than that of a well-governed Western European democracy, justifying the large number of above convictions.
The U.S. has demonstrated to the international community that it knows and can, when necessary, responsibly inform and protect the fundamental right to religious freedom, especially when it is so brutally attacked.
We also wish to emphasize our sorrow for the totally unwarranted, unprecedented and extreme measure of the attempted removal from the members of the monastery of two U.S. nationals,namely monks: a) Ignatios S. Stavropoulos (or Paul Stavros) and b) Chrysostomos N. Trompoukis.
Therefore, we are confident that you will deal in depth with our case.
Thank you for your time.
Fr. Ignatios S. Stavropoulos (or Paul S. Stavros