12 January 2012, 10:01
Russian Church declines to comment on Constantinople statement on abbot's arrest
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.
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