Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Flag waving hierarchs not Athonite community's cup of tea

(Romfea) - The Holy Community of Mount Athos has sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, George Katrougalos, with which it expressed its strong protest regarding the visit of an Hierarch of the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine.

Specifically, the Holy Community communicates to the Minister of Foreign Affairs a Romfea.gr article, which concerned a visit by Metropolitan Mikhail of Lutsk and Volyn to Mount Athos.

The Holy Community describes the action of the Metropolitan and his escort as provocative, for they were holding Ukrainian flags while they chanted the National Anthem of Ukraine.

“The action of this Metropolitan, following his visit to the Holy Epistasis, constitutes a violation of Article 184 of the Charter of Mount Athos, on the basis of which ‘any moral, religious, ecclesiastical, social, nationalist and any other kind of proselytizing and propagandistic action in Mount Athos’ is absolutely forbidden and punished with the expulsion penalty”, as the Holy Community of Mount Athos states in its letter.

Also, the Athonites emphasize: “This action is incompatible with the hesychastic, spiritual and sacred character of our Holy Land and its millennial tradition, it creates a dangerous precedent for the repetition of similar actions on either side and for nationalist conflicts in it, and is totally contrary to the Charter of the Mount Athos.”

Finally, the Holy Community asks the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs to take the necessary measures to prevent such acts in the future, so that the character of the Holy Mountain may remain untouched.


  1. I mentioned something at my Greek church about the flags of Greece and Cyprus being placed on the amvon, and he said it took them some time to get the parish council agree to add the Cypriot flag. I asked why have them at all. Well, because otherwise we'd have to take the American flag down, too. OK. He was shocked I thought the American flag should be removed, as well, since I was an American convert. The priest was also shocked at my response to a private comment by the Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol who said about Orthodoxy in America, "sometimes you have to be a bad Greek to be a good Orthodox" - I said "sometimes you have to be a bad American to be a good Orthodox." "How so?!"

    In short, nationalism is blind to itself.

    1. The idea of having a national flag in the parish is bizarre to me, and I'm a nationalist.

  2. [Insert nation-state here] Orthodox Church. Some of US have a preposition between His Kingdom and our existential occupancy. Such is our blessing and yet frequent castigation comes from those that put their nation name prior to the word ‘Orthodox’.
    Though wrong it is to bring a national flag to The Holy Mountain I smile to recall the First Ecumenical (is that word allowed here?) Council was called by a politician.

    1. They chanted the National anthem of a foreign nation state at the top of mount Athos braisen with that nation state's flags. It flys in the face of the spirit of mount athos. I'm sorry as I am trying not to be too argumentative online or anywhere where else but there is absolutely no comparison between that and the fact that the first ecumenical council was called by a Roman emperor.

  3. The monks are right. Wherever one stands on the Ukrainian question, this was inappropriate behavior.

  4. At a first glance, we all have to agree that Orthodox Church from the days of the Christian Roman Empire till today practices the Byzantine concept of "symphonia" (symphony or integral collaboration b/w Empire/ State Power and Church). So the natural tendency to, collaborate with/ be parasitic on/ be subsumed under, Empires or Political Regimes is inherent in the DNA of the Orthodox Church for better or for worse. This is amply born out by still-so-popular 'pseudoreligio-political & ideological concepts' such as "Holy Byzantium," "Orthodox Hellenism," "Holy Russia," "Russkiy Mir/ Russian World," "Slavic Orthodoxy," "Holy Serbia," "Holy Romania," "Holy Bulgaria," "Holy Georgia," "Arab Orthodoxy" etc etc etc.

    While it is true that the Church incarnated itsef within every specific geographical, cultural, & political contexts it finds itself in, it ought to draw a fine line inorder to avoid confusion between the Kingdom of God (its sole & primary vocation) and Earthly Empires/ Political Regimes. Likewise, while the Church is often incarnated & preserved within the cultural worlds of Pan-Hellenism, Pan-Slavism, Russkiy Mir/ Russian World, Pan-Arabism, etc, these cultural and civilizational identities by themselves are not synonymous with Christian identity, and can not be its substitute. In fact, putting the identity & interests of one's nation, culture, & civilization above the identity & interests of the Church is the Heresy of Ethnophyletism.

    In this light, the Monks of Athos are correct, "as a matter of principle," to remind everyone about the dangers of exalting one's national or cultural identity above the Church... especially in a place like Athos... which belongs to the whole world!

    But some crucial questions remain:
    1) Are there any past historical precedents (in the last 1000 years) at all when similar such events took place (of waving national flag or singing one's national anthem at Mt. Athos)?
    2) If so, are there similar rebuke/ protest from the Monks at all? Or is this outrage & protest specific to the Ukrainian question as usual?! If this caution is a general refrain for all national & cultural identities equally applied to all throughout history (i.e., to Hellenic, Slavic, Russian, Romanian, Serbian, Arab etc etc), then it is justified.

    However, if the anxiety & paranoia displayed by the Monks is proven to be Ukrainian-specific (yet again), then it presents an extremely poor & sorry picture of Athos monasticism.

    So the Monks of Athos (perhaps we don't know as yet who these people are... from which specific monasteries) also ought to be very careful not to single out one particular national identity (i.e., Ukrainian) and denouncing it while hobnobbing & collaborating intimately with another (Hellenic or Russian). Otherwise they will be guilty of both "selective ethnophyletism" (exalting Greece & Russia above the Church) and "double standard" (which is a much more damning SIN for in today's world). People in the 21st century can smell hypocrisy & double-standards from miles & miles away!
    So the Monks of Athos would do well to remember this "golden rule."
    Otherwise, their moral & spiritual credibility, in fact their entire future depends on them NOT being biased, hypocritical, & two-faced.

    Lord Have Mercy! Kyrie Eleison!