Russian Church Declines to Comment on Constantinople Statement on Abbot’s Arrest

How is Moscow commenting on the imprisonment of Abbot Ephraim any different than Constantinople urging the Europeans to support passage of the Geneva Protocols before Global Warming was discredited? Don’t both concern an act of state? Or is Constantinople claiming a prerogative that in fact does not exist: Whenever the state takes an action that impacts the Church, only the hierarch of the region has authority to speak out. If that’s the case, then no Church could protest in support of, say, the Coptic Orthodox or any other group persecuted by the state. This is a prescription for recalcitrant states to increase pressure on all Christians, not just the Orthodox. Moscow is wise not to say anything.

Source: Interfax

Pats. Bartholomew and Kyrill

Moscow, January 12, Interfax – The Russian Orthodox Church has declined to comment on a statement from the Patriarchate of Constantinople on Tuesday on the recent arrest in Greece of Archimandrite Ephrem, abbot of the Vatopedi Monastery in Greece’s Mt. Athos monastic community, over real estate deals.

“I assume that [the statement] speaks for itself. All that the Russian Orthodox Church has considered necessary to say on this matter is said in the letter of the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to the Greek president and in the comments of Metropolitan Hilarion [head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations] that date back to December 28,” an External Church Relations Department spokesman told Interfax-Religion on Wednesday.

In its statement, the Constantinople Patriarchate deplored the Ephrem affair but said it respected the independence of Greek justice and avoided interfering with unfinished court cases, one reason being it does not know all the details of any such case.

The Constantinople Patriarchate also pointed out that the fact that the community comprising its see includes monks of various nationalities does not vest it with authority over the entire world Orthodox community that would give it the right to interfere in the affairs of other churches.

Archimandrite Ephrem was arrested by court order last month as part of an investigation into real estate deals between the Vatopedi Monastery and the Greek state that was launched in 2008.

Late in December, Patriarch Kirill wrote a letter to Greek President Karolos Papoulias in which he asked for Ephrem to be released, expressing surprise at the detention of “a monk who poses no public danger and has repeatedly offered to cooperate with the investigators.”

Metropolitan Hilarion branded Ephrem’s arrest as an attack against the Mt. Athos community and against Orthodoxy as a whole.

Influential Russian politicians and the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed support for the archimandrite.

Among those who rose up in his defense was Russia’s Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called, which brought the Belt of the Most Holy Mother of God to Russia this autumn in what was the first time the highly venerated Orthodox relic, which is kept at the Vatopedi Monastery, was taken outside Greece.

The cincture was shown in various Russian cities from October 20 to November 28 and was seen by nearly 3 million people, including top Russian state leaders.


  1. Geo Michalopulos :

    How long, O Lord, must we suffer under such inertial leadership? How long?

  2. Note to Phanar:

    Dead church…meet a LIVE church.

    Strong letter to follow.


    Seriously – I’ve been observing for some time now that the “fault line” in the Orthodox world was going to change from that of “Greek vs Slavic” to one of “Live vs Dead”. I think this episode is a great example of that. And the response was particularly telling: When it’s important…simply ignore the Dead church.”

    This story is interesting in that it marks a new threshhold for the Russian Church. During the past two years, the ROC has begun to consistently describe the Ecumenical Patriarch as simply “the Patriarch of Constantinople.” This began during the visit of the EP to Moscow which coincided with the First Assembly of Bishops here in the US, and has continued unabated since then. See for yourself at this or any number of other stories on the MP website referring to Constantinople. There are no longer (or very few) references to “first among equals” or “His ALL Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch”…it is now simply Patriarch of Constantinople…presumably the Greek equivalent to the Patriarch of Moscow.

    This, however, marks a new step in the process. The Moscow patriarchate is now flexing it’s muscles, using it’s position as a “live” church and a serious organ of the Russian State, to weigh in on political issues anywhere in the Orthodox world.

    The ancient patriarchates, who have lived for centuries on nothing but mythology, may want to reconsider their positions on a few things. Because this is simply a “preview of coming attractions.”

    While all the talk about a “Great and Holy Council” makes for important sounding headlines – At the end of the day, churches who are “ALIVE” (Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Georgia, Poland, Czech Lands, Greece, Cyprus, the OCA [arguably]- and I would include even the Oriental Churches of Egypt and Ethiopia) are simply going to ignore those that are “Dead” (Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch).

    If i were “running strategy” for those Ancient Patriarchates, I’d be cutting deals while I still had something to bargain with.

    Best Regards,

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