2011-12-26 11:24:00

Russian Church believes Vatopedi Rector's arrest groundless sanction

Moscow, December 26, Interfax - The decision to arrest Rector of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos Archimandrite Yefrem is "unreasonably tough", Secretary for Inter-Orthodox Affairs in the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk told Interfax-Religion.

"It is an unprecedented event and, of course, we're concerned. Even if Father Yefrem is someway guilty, arrest of a rector, a monk is an extreme sanction," Father Igor said.

According to him, it is difficult to say whether there are grounds for detaining as it requires good knowledge of Greek legislation and the essence of the case, but the very fact of detaining Father Yefrem on the eve of Christmas in Greece "causes big questions."

The priest is perplexed that "a new turn of this case started after Father Yefrem triumphantly returned from Russia with the Belt of the Mother of God.

"Perhaps, is a coincidence, but many people see some political backgrounds here," the interviewee of the agency said.

The Foundation of St.Andrew the First-Called believes that such legal decisions can be explained only with "political engagement of certain circles of Greek establishment, which thus want to demonstrate the West that they are ready to refuse principles of arranging spiritual life fixed in the Greek Constitution."

"The fact that court actions were turned against a spiritual leader, one of the most respected people on Athos, suffering from many diseases old man is especially outraging," the Foundation officials wrote in their statement.

The Foundation urges the governing body of Athos, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, representatives of other local Orthodox Churches and ordinary believers to speak for Father Yefrem as he "is exposed to prosecutions, which exceed the formal reason for launching the case."

Earlier, the Foundation of St.Andrew the First-Called first time ever delivered the Belt of the Mother of God from the Vatopedi Monastery. After visiting St. Petersburg the shrine was taken to other Russian cities. The last point was Moscow. The belt returned to Athos on November 28.

3 mln of people venerated the Belt of the Holy Virgin when the shrine stayed in Russia.