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» 01/10/2012
RUSSIA - GREECE
Abbot of Mount Athos arrested. War of influence between Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate
by Nina Achmatova
Abbot Ephrem is under arrest since 24 December after his return from the tour in Russia, with the relic of the Virgin's belt. Moscow denounces judicial persecution, but he is a controversial figure who has made various attempts to distance himself from Constantinople.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - European Union pressure on Greece, the economic and political ambitions of a "hyperactive" monk and the expansionist ambitions of the Moscow Patriarchate on Mount Athos. These are some of the conclusions drawn over the last two weeks, by the media, analysts and churchmen in an attempt to explain the arrest of Hegumen Ephraim, abbot of the Vatopedi monastery. It is considered the '"aristocracy" of Mount Athos, the largest and most important of the Holy Mountain, which falls under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

On 24 December, the police arrested Archimandrite by decision of the Court of Appeal of Athens as part of an investigation into a 2008 sale of land, to the loss of the Hellenic exchequer. The case has made headlines not only because of his advanced age and poor health, but also because unusual in a country where the Orthodox Church has a privileged status, with its strong autonomy on Mount Athos. In addition, Ephrem is a high-level personality who over time has managed to forge important contacts in the world of politics and business inside and outside of the border.

An example of this is his contacts with the Russian authorities and the Moscow Patriarchate, established thanks to his exploitation of the historical rivalry between the Russian Orthodox Church and Constantinople, as denounced by sources within the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Just a month before his arrest, the prior had brought the famous relic of the Virgin's belt on tour to Russia, which was venerated by three million pilgrims throughout the Federation. Something useful for the Russian government, given its sharp decline in consensus with the legislative elections around the corner, but also for the same Ephrem – maintain the Constantinople sources - just as the circle of investigations tightened around him.

His arrest took place, in fact, immediately after his return from Russia and has generated a very strong reaction from the Moscow Patriarchate. Kirill himself has written to the Greek president, Karolos Papoulias, to ask for his release, while the Metropolitan Hilarion, responsible for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate, spoke of "hostile attack the Athos monks and the entire Orthodox Church".

Many have noted, however, Bartholomew’s silence on the issue. Sources close to the Ecumenical Patriarch have told AsiaNews that it is only "prudence" and recalled that after repeated rebukes regarding his financial and political initiatives, Ephraim had already been deprived of the administrative management of Vatopedi, leaving him exclusively as the spiritual leader there. The Patriarchate apparently also "advised" him to resign, having no right to impose its will on him.

For Sergey Rudov, head of the Foundation of Friends of the Monastery of Vatopedi and member of the Public Chamber in Russia, Ephrem is being subjected to "legal persecution". "There are two reasons behind his arrest - he told the official TV broadcaster NTV - the first is that under EU pressure, Greece aims to reduce the status of autonomy of Mount Athos and the second is the growing influence of 'Russian Orthodoxy on the Holy Mountain ", favoured by the same Ephrem and not appreciated by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

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See also
04/02/2012 GREECE - RUSSIA
Mount Athos abbot released on bail as tensions with Russia continue
by Nina Achmatova
09/02/2004 RUSSIA
Aleksij II: "United against terrorism, a threat to the world"
01/24/2004 ORTHODOX CHURCH - CUBA – TURKEY
Behind-the-scenes of an Orthodox church in Havana
08/26/2004 VATICAN - RUSSIA
"The handover of the icon of Kazan is an historic event"
08/25/2004 RUSSIA - VATICAN
The Patriarch should be first to see the icon of Kazan, Vatican official told

Editor's choices
IRAQ-ITALY
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul," the thanks of the Patriarch Louis Sako; the concerns of the Bishop of Kurdistan
by Bernardo CervelleraThe head of the Chaldean Church is grateful for the AsiaNews campaign and hopes that "this chain of solidarity will reach far and wide”. Helping refugees to remain in Iraq. But many want to flee abroad. The bishop of Amadiyah where thousands of displaced people have found haven in churches and homes: We also help the Arabs (Muslims), and Yazidis, for free and without looking at our confessional differences.
ITALY - IRAQ
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul" to respond directly to Iraq's emergencyAsiaNews is launching a fundraiser to support Christians targeted by the Islamic State, thus responding to a request by the Patriarch of Baghdad and Pope Francis's urgent appeal "to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others." More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving everything behind and now have nothing to live on. To help them, five euros a day are enough. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, which will distribute them according to the needs of each family.
CHINA - VATICAN
Wenzhou bishop and priests slam government's campaign against crosses and churches in Zhejiang
by Eugenia ZhangFor Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, from the official Church, the campaign of destruction is increasing social instability. It is real persecution against the Christian faith. The bishop apologises for failing to intervene sooner. He was hoping that the campaign would end quickly. Catholics and Protestants suffer injuries as they attempt to defend their sacred buildings. For priests in Wenzhou, the campaign is unfair and touches buildings that have all the right papers. Such "stupid acts" by the government are undermining social harmony.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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