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Athos Monks' Visits to Greece Restricted in Latest Ecumenism Row

This is unprecedented. The tension between Athos monks and the Greek church has reached an all-time high because of their conservative stance on ecumenism

There has been an ongoing tug-of-war for years between the Greek Church and the monks on Mount Athos over Ecumenism, a movement which aims to unite different Christian Churches.

Mount Athos is peninsula in northeastern Greece, and, almost unarguably, the center of Orthodox monasticism in the world.

Athos is a religious world of its own. The monks there retain a connection to ancient ascetic practices and are steel proponents of maintaining Orthodox traditional values, and are opposed to unity with other churches if it involves any compromise of the core, traditional tenets of Orthodox Christianity.

Meanwhile, the Greek Church, which controls the churches of the rest of Greece, pursues a more liberal agenda.

At every turn, they are challenged by Athos monks, coming down from the “Holy Mountain,” to preach against ecumenism. Athos monks are greatly revered by believers and command trust and respect.

In response, the Greek Church passed a shocking decree, unprecedented in Athos's 1000 year history: Athos monks need to receive express permission in order to preach--and even visit-- Greek cities.

This is the latest news on the situation from Ortho Christian:

In a major decision, the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church released a decree yesterday that allows abbots, hieromonks, and simple monks to visit and offer lectures in Greek cities and churches only by permission of the Holy Synod, rather than the local hierarch whose metropolis they wish to visit, reports vimaortodoxias.gr.

This news is expected to trigger historical developments between the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under whose omophorion Mt. Athos falls, the Church of Greece, and, of course the Athonite state. The synod’s decision has already been sent to the Archdiocese of Athens and has already been communicated to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Sacred Community and all the holy monasteries of Mt. Athos. The Holy Mountain is already preparing its response to the synod’s decision that seems to have dropped like a bomb.

Speaking with vimaortodoxias, the head of the Sacred Community of Mt. Athos noted that this has never happened before in the history of the relations between the Greek Church and Mt. Athos, and believes the decision is due to some other factors outside the scope of their relationship.

“No responsibilities have been removed from the metropolitans,” stated the metropolitan of Attica, according to vimaortodoxias, “However, since the synod should know what is happening in the metropolises, we will give permission only for formal reasons.”

Tensions have been growing between the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate for some time. According to one expert, speaking with RIA-Novosti in December 2015, “One of the signs of this tension was the invitation by Patriarch Bartholomew of all the hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and bishops of North Greece, who belong to the Church of Greece and are members of its Synod of Hierarchs, to a meeting that was held late in August-early in September in Istanbul.”

“And the Archbishop of Athens was even not informed about the invitation of these hierarchs,” he added.

According to him, the Archbishop of Athens is also deeply concerned over the actions of representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Athens Metropolitan Amphilochius. According to the information obtained by the agency’s spokesman, this metropolitan started construction of a church and an administrative building without asking for permission of the Archbishop of Athens.

His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens also abstained from the January 21-28, 2016 meeting of the Orthodox primates in Chambesy, which had convened in preparation for the summer’s pan-Orthodox council on Crete. According to a letter penned by the archbishop and submitted to the Holy Synod because he believes the Ecumenical Patriarchate had taken various actions in Greece that undermine the authority and reputation of the Church of Greece.

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