Cablegate: Ecumenical Patriarch On Esphigmenou Monastery

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

B. B) 2002 ISTANBUL 761
D. D) 2002 ATHENS 613

1. (SBU) On January 16, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
passed the Consul General a copy of a recent Ecumenical
Patriarchate "Notification on the Sacred Monastery of
Esphigmenou." The notification (see below) reiterates the
Patriarchate's position on the long-standing dispute with the
Esphigmenou Monastery (reftels). Bartholomew did not offer
any further comment on the issue.

2. (SBU) Begin Text

A Notification on the Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou

Religious freedom, which is internationally endorsed,
stipulates that each organized religion or religious
community determines the manner of receiving believers in its
membership and the presuppositions for their inclusion and
exclusion. Furthermore, the administration of each religion
has the jurisdictional right to specify the limits of
operation of its religious houses and of the all other
establishments of its worship. It is self-evident and
generally acceptable that the basic and indispensable
presupposition of the use of places of worship (churches,
monasteries, etc.) of a given religion is that whoever
requests such as a usage should be a member of the given
religion or religious community to which the particular place
of worship belongs. It is not possible for a Christian to
"demand" to hold an act of worship of Christians in a Moslem
mosque. No Orthodox Christian or group of Orthodox
Christians have the right to demand the use of a Roman
Catholic place of worship, or a Lutheran one, etc. Whether
non-Orthodox churches or communities allow the use of their
premises by the Orthodox is a matter that pertains to their
absolute discretionary convenience. In no case could these
Orthodox accuse these churches of restricting their religious
freedom by not allowing them to use places of worship that
belong to them.

The judgment of the highest authority of a religion
concerning the deletion of certain ex-members from the
registry of its active members is an internal matter (interna
corporis) of this religion and cannot be questioned by other
authorities. A complaint that such a judgment curtails the
religious freedom of those deleted is totally baseless,
because their deletion does not deprive them of the right to
believe whatever they wish and as they wish and to engage in
their religious activities as they decide. It only deprives
them of the right to make use of places of worship of the
religion from which they were deleted, because this is a
self-evident consequence of their deletion. And, indeed, if
they have in no way contributed to the construction of such
places in question, they are certainly unable to evoke any
proprietary or economic connection with them.

In the case at hand, the Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou on
the Holy Mountain of Mt. Athos has a history of centuries and
was not erected by those who have occupied it since 1972. It
belongs, as the entire Holy Mountain does, to the Orthodox
Church under the Ecumenical Patriarchate (of Constantinople).
By virtue of the explicit regulation of article 5 of the
Constitutional Charter of the Holy Mountain and of article
105 of the Constitution of the Greek State, "schismatics and
heterodox" are not permitted to be residents on the Holy
Mountain. "Schismatics" are those who, although not
differing in faith from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, refuse
to be in ecclesiastical communion with the Ecumenical
Patriarchate and also with the rest of the Orthodox Churches.
"Heterodox" are those who hold a different faith on a few or
more points, such as the Protestants, the Roman Catholics,
etc. The special arrangement, which applies to the Holy
Mountain for religious purposes, is recognized by the
European Union as being in agreement with European Law. This
arrangement is attached to the Treaty of the entry of Greece
into the European Economic Community and has ever since been
recognized as being in force.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, exercising its spiritual
jurisdiction, has characterized as schismatics the occupants
of the Monastery of Esphigmenou, who since 1972 have cut-off
relations with both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the other
Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Mountain. A necessary
consequence of this spiritual and jurisdictional judgment,
which has taken the form of an official Patriarchal and
Synodical decision, is that these occupants have no longer
any right to reside on the Holy Mountain. Indeed, their
residence there is not based on any right of any other
nature. They did not erect the Sacred Monastery, nor do they
have any right over it. Their expulsion from the Holy
Mountain does not offend their religious freedom to engage in
religious activity as they wish. It simply safeguards the
freedom of the members of the Sacred Community of the Holy
Mountain to have, according to teConsiutioa Chatr of
the oly Mountain,
-monastics who hare te samefaith nd
ae of the sam mind nd admnistraively nited ith thm.
or exaple, te condmned mnks ofEsphigenou dd not
atted for ecadesthe hihest aministrative gatherings of
he Holy Mountain, the 20-membered "Sacred Community,"
because they did not wish to participate in the customary
inaugural common prayer, established for centuries. Besides,
they refused to be in ecclesiastical and administrative
communion with the rest of the Sacred Monasteries of the Holy
Mountain and to participate in common activities of worship
and governance of any nature.

Consequently, the decision, taken after thirty years of
patience, to characterize as schismatics the uncanonical
occupants of the Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou, which
incurs their expulsion from the Holy Mountain, constitutes an
obligatory action which has been issued in light of new, very
recent and extremely injurious data. This action protects
the religious freedom of the Holy Mountain, without offending
the religious freedom of those expelled from it, who can
engage in their religious practices as they wish in any other
place outside the Holy Mountain which has been for more than
a millennium specifically allocated to Orthodox believers and
not schismatics.

In conclusion, the possible claims of the uncanonical
occupants of the Sacred Monastery of Esphigmenou of the Holy
Mountain that their characterization as schismatics and their
consequent expulsion from the Holy Mountain is an assault on
their religious freedom is baseless, because it does not
restrict them from having any convictions and from practicing
them anywhere else, except on the Holy Mountain. The Holy
Mountain has been for more than a millennium specifically
assigned, in accordance with its current Constitutional
Charter which is in force since 1924 and the Constitution of
Greece, to Orthodox Christians alone, who recognize the
spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the
Patriarch over them, i.e. to those who are not schismatics.

End Text

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