The Unfortunate Fall of The Athonite Monastery Of Esphigmenon
Through its Recognition of Metropolitan Paul of Astoria
By Bishop Gregory of Denver and Colorado
Recently the monastery of Esphigmenon has experienced a new period of persecution. In previous times when persecution arose against the monastery, the monks were defiant in their defense of the true Faith, being grounded upon the principles of Orthodoxy. The last attempt to evict the non-commemorating monks of Esphigmenon was in September of 1974. At that time, they draped the monastery with a black flag that said “Orthodoxy or Death”. The attackers eventually dispersed and left the monks in peace until the present time.
As we have seen in the history of Orthodoxy (and even in the Old Testament), when the true Faith is not upheld, God’s protection does not rest upon those who do not uphold the Faith. Unhappily, it seems that we shall see this confirmed anew in the upcoming expulsion of the monks of Esphigmenon from the Holy Mountain Athos. Recently, a sorrowful turn of events occurred in the history of the monastery of Esphigmenon that saddened the rest of the zealot monks of the Holy Mountain Athos. The leaders of the monastery (the synaxis) elected to remain with the fallen Archbishop Chrysostom II (Kiousis) of Athens, the head of one faction of the Greek Old Calendarists. This hierarch and his synod of bishops fell into the ecumenism espoused by Cyprian of Fili by electing and elevating to the episcopacy the notorious Cyprianite ecumenist, Archimandrite Paul (Stratigeas) of Astoria, NY. Paul was “consecrated” despite a history of ecumenical activities and statements of which he had never formally repented. Here is a sampling of his statements made while a member of the Greek Old Calendarists and contrary to their confession of Faith:
1. “Bartholomew, of course,...is the presiding hierarch of Orthodoxy”!
2. “At Saint Markella’s [Paul’s church] thousands of our Greek people attend services. But I have a problem of conscience because they are the spiritual children of Bartholomew, all of them. They belong to the Church of Bartholomew. I belong to the Church of Chrysostom who has specifically stated that we are not to provide the mysteries to those who follow the new calendar. Yet I provide the mysteries to the followers of the new calendar.”
3. “We need humility, repentance, and to return to the Mother Church.”
4. “In my conscience I belong to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.... I identify myself totally with his course, and I am aware that these words shall cost me. But it doesn’t concern me, because I believe in the truth.”
(These quotations are taken from an interview given to Theodore Kalmoukas of the National Herald, which was printed in that paper’s issue of Tuesday, May 24, 1994.)
Paul’s history of ecumenism did not end in 1994. Because of Archimandrite Paul’s statements and actions, the Synod of Chrysostom II Kiousis hesitated to ordain him a bishop. In 1994, Archbishop Chrysostom II broke communion with the ROCA because of its union with Cyprian of Fili. At that time, Paul, in his insatiable desire to be ordained to the episcopacy, joined the ROCA. When Metropolitan Vitaly hesitated to ordain him, Paul joined the synod of Cyprian of Fili for a short time, hoping to be ordained there. At that time, he grievously insulted his former synod and president (Chrysostom II Kiousis) with the following publicly-printed statements:
1. “Archbishop Chrysostom Kiousis and his...bishops proceeded with the deposition of the righteous Metropolitan Cyprian and his bishops, who never joined the new Synod under Kiousis, for ‘ecumenism,’ on the grounds that, like Archbishop Peter, they considered the New Calendarists to have grace.”
2. “Because of the extremist course that is being followed by Archbishop Chrysostom Kiousis, we saw no recourse but to return to the church which gave Archbishop Peter his episcopacy and which has an ecclesiology similar to his own, that of recognizing Grace among the ailing New Calendarists and modernists.”
3. “...[S]tand up firmly and in truth against the extremists [Archbishop Chrysostom and his Synod] who today wish, for personal reasons, to divide us traditionalists. They are hateful people with foul tongues and the tactics of politicians and propagandists.”
4. “Archbishop Chrysostom and all of his bishops...[have]...adopted a baseless theology, i.e. ecclesiology.”
5. “...[S]imply reflecting on the fact that Metropolitan Cyprian and his bishops...were deposed by Archbishop Chrysostom and his synod, and that for ‘ecumenism’, that is believing that the New Calendarists have Grace. This is not the act of competent individuals, if you will forgive me. And where incompetence rules in matters of proper order, how can one look for authoritative competence?”
6. “While the New Calendarists and ecumenists have deviated from the correct belief...they have not wholly succumbed to heresy....”
7. “And we consider it our duty to minister to those who are...caught in the traps of modernism and ecumenism....” “If we are condemned for this, then we are condemned with the Church Fathers and great Councils, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Metropolitan Cyprian and his Bishops, and the Bulgarian and Romanian Old Calendarists.”
(The above quotations are taken from an interview of the Editorial Staff of the Russian Periodical Pravoslavnia Rus’, which is published by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Jordanville, New York. The article is printed in Orthodox Tradition , Vol. 8, No. 1, 1996, pp. 10-17.)
He has maintained the above Cyprianite ecclesiology even to this day. The Synod of Chrysostom II Kiousis accepted him back and even has endorsed him by publishing a statement in their official periodical affirming that he is “a very righteous man” and “the only hope for Orthodoxy in America”! His “consecration” by Kiousis took place on February 26, 1998. When Archimandrite Paul was ordained, the monks of Esphigmenon made no protest and even received him as a lawful Orthodox bishop into their monastery. This was in direct opposition to the former-abbot’s initial reaction. When he (Abbot Evthymios) heard that Paul was to be ordained, he notified Chrysostom II Kiousis that if this happened, his monastery would cease commemorating the Archbishop.
Their subsequent acceptance of Paul was the turning point in the history of the monastery’s position as confessing Orthodox Christians. They had accepted ecumenism in the person of Paul and continued to commemorate Chrysostom II Kiousis, and now it seems that they are going to suffer the consequences of their apostasy from the true Faith. The loss of their monastery and the dispersion of their monks seems imminent. May God enlighten them unto their repentance and salvation. Other zealot, non-commemorating monks of the Holy Mountain Athos do not hold communion with the Synod of Archbishop Chrysostom II Kiousis precisely because of his aforementioned and subsequent uncanonical actions.
Bishop Gregory of Denver and Colorado
January 9/22, 2002
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
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