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Greece: The Metropolitans rally against the "unfair decision" on Elder Efrem

28. December 2011. | 17:56 17:57

Source: Emg.rs

Author: Nikolaos D.A. Arvanites

Abbot Efraim, 55, was led to the Korydallos prison outside Athens Wednesday morning after spending the night in the capital’s police headquarters following a 600-kilometer journey from Vatopedi, located in the Orthodox monastic sanctuary of Mount Athos in northern Greece.

Greek authorities on Wednesday jailed the abbot of a 1,000-year-old Greek Orthodox monastery accused of playing a key role in an alleged land swap scandal with the state.

The government is said to have lost tens of millions of euros in a series of land swaps with Vatopedi, a monastery with many prominent fans in Greece and abroad including Britain's Prince Charles, who is a frequent visitor.

Exposure of the scandal precipitated the fall of the Karamanlis government in 2009.

MPs have investigated three former government ministers over Vatopedi. But the case against them was dropped because it fell under a statute of limitations. An investigation continued into monks and other public officials.

Abbot Efraim, 55, was led to the Korydallos prison outside Athens Wednesday morning after spending the night in the capital’s police headquarters following a 600-kilometer journey from Vatopedi, located in the Orthodox monastic sanctuary of Mount Athos in northern Greece.

His arrest has triggered protests.

On Tuesday night, several hundred monks, nuns and other demonstrators gathered outside a central court building to protest Efraim’s arrest.

Holding lit candles and singing hymns, several hundred monks, nuns and other protesters gathered outside the court and nearby police headquarters, as Abbot Ephraim was formally detained for his alleged involvement in the Vatopedi land-swap scandal.

The protesters shouted "You are worthy!" as Ephraim greeted them from an unmarked police car, the window obscured by condensation.

Speaking to Skai TV, Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki wondered why Ephraim was the only person among the 32 involved in the Vatopedi land swap to be remanded in custody.

“People are wondering whether Ephraim is being made a scapegoat,” said the bishop, who insisted that the Church of Greece’s Holy Synod would not take a position on the matter.

“There is the problem of meddling in judicial matters,” he said. “The church is totally separate from the state.”

No trial date has been set, and the abbot’s lawyers are expected to apply for his release. Under Greek law, suspects can be jailed for up to 18 months pending trial.

It is extremely provocative to say the least to put into prison the Abbot of the Vatopaidi monastery, Efrem, when politicians who have confessed to accepting bribes are still at large! The judicial council decided yesterday to remand into custody Fr. Efrem in order to ensure that he will not leave the country.

The prosecutor clashed with the investigator on the issue. After the elder’s apology, the prosecutor, Panayiotis Matzounis, argued in favor of the imposition of restrictive conditions rather than the custody remand. The conditions were prohibition of travel, bail of 200,000 Euro and personal appearance at a police station twice a month.

Mr. Yiannis Matzouranis, who appeared for the Elder argued that ‘the remand into custody decision had no moral or legal base’.

The custody decision against a clergyman renowned world wide for his charitable work and spiritual mission a few days before Christmas comes to add to the woes which befell the country as a result of the gloomy political and financial conditions. Needless to say no one has so far been accused or found guilty or imprisoned for the country’s degradation!

It was only yesterday that the Vice President of the government, E. Venizelos told the plenary of the House of Representatives that any investigation into money laundering in Switzerland on behalf of Mps constitutes a mockery since ‘anyone can set up an offshore company rather than keeping a personal account’.

Deep down no one wants to remember those who confessed that they had accepted bribes from Siemens, which they either put in their pockets (as in the Manteli case) or in the party coffers (as in the Tsoukatou case).

Yet justice and the political system have found a monk as a target for their purging; a monk whom for a long time they hold hostage to political intrigue without any evidence as to his personal involvement in any issue under investigation.

In this indescribable Greek reality show, monk Efrem is judged as ‘likely to leave the country’ and is remanded into custody. Yes, during the entire time of his judicial ordeal, this ‘likely to leave’ monk has visited several countries and gave 48 presentations. Recently he even visited Moscow at the invitation of the Russian President and the Prime Minister. At the end of these visits, Elder Efrem always returned to his country and his monastery even though he suspected that the outcome of this whole process might be regrettable.

Elder Efrem : "I am led into custody without any justification"

‘I am a monk and I have handed over my life to the hands of the Most Holy Lady from the beginning of my life’. This is what Elder Efrem said to the monks who met him to take his blessing according to agioritikovima.gr.

‘Most of the faithful perceive you as a confessor you is led into prison without any justification’ said the monks to him.

The replied: ‘From a young age I have given myself over to the Most Holy Lady. Where I am going now, I am also doing the same. Therefore, do not be scared. I have never pursued glory and neither have I done any heroic acts. Had I wished for these, I wouldn’t become a monk in the Holy Mountain. I have defended and will continue to defend the Holy Mountain and the property of our monastery which our forefathers have created’.

I am taken into custody without any justification’, he added.

Metropolitan Konitis Andrew: ‘The court decision against Efrem turns against the Church’.”

His Eminence the Metropolitan Dryinoupoleos, Pogonianis & Konitsis, Mr Andrew, made the following statement:

‘I have been dumbfounded when I learnt that hieronmonk Efrem, Abbot of the Great Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi was to be remanded in custody for the well known, sensationalist case.

I am not aware of the reasons behind the decision. But I do know that in view of the Christmas period, the decision to remand in custody the Abbot as a common criminal is an act which turns against the Church and naturally against the Holy Mountain; this is something which will give great pleasure to the enemies of these two institutions.

How plausible is it to suggest that justice must be done in the case of a monk when major criminals, drug barons, thieves, thugs and embezzlers of the state’s coffers are still at large, continuing without hindrance their destructive mission? Even if the said monk did have some dealings with the state, this was done –as everyone knows- in order to safeguard earnings to maintain the large Vatopaidi monastery with the numerous brotherhood ( over 120 monks), the worshipers, who in their dozens flood the monastery and receive not only spiritual guidance but food and hospitality on a daily basis.

Let the state be very careful not to provoke the religious sentiment of the people. People have enough shortages and hardship caused by crazy and incompetent politicians. Times are difficult and perilous. Above all the nation needs to be united as one man; this will not happen with such decisions. Let us stand well’.

The Metropolitan Siatistis took a strong stance against the decision on Efrem.

Never in my life did I imagine that on such a feast day I would have to write this passage. However, may those who managed such a thing, fare well.

I am referring to the decision to remand into custody the Abbot of the Vatopaidi Monastery Elder Efrem, on this feast day on Christmas Eve. This decision exposes our legal and political system.

As soon as this issue broke out, I became very sceptical and was waiting to see how it would turn out. However, I was very conscious of the fact that both political parties were absolutely aware of this issue. It came to the public light in the way it did, through the conflict between Rousopoulos and Kontominas. The issue progressed in the well known way which resulted in the dismissal of all charges against every politician.

Recently a TV channel began airing properly documented statements by all parties involved, and especially by litigators, presenting the issue in its true colours; this was a completely different story from the one initially presented by all mass media, who were serving political interests.

The outcome of this new evidence is that the real scandal is the false impressions which were intentionally, consciously and studiously cultivated.

Let me refer to what is happening today. Elder Efrem is more or less the only one left to bring to justice, with the result that he is remanded in custody.

Learned litigators have stated the conditions necessary if an order for custody is to be given: Namely, one is to be remanded in custody if his permanent address in the country is unknown, if he has prepared his getaway, if he had escaped in the past from a sentence or from prison, if he was found guilty for aiding and abetting someone else’s escape, or has violated any restrictions imposed for his residency status, or if it is evidently deemed probable for him to commit further crimes if he is let free; the latter must be proved by previous well established facts or by the particulars of the crime he is accused of .

The question which must be raised in front of the judges is crucial and clear: Which of the above conditions are true in this case? None whatsoever. The decision by the judicial council is an insult to common judgment and reasoning.

Therefore it is obvious that politics were at work when this decision was taken.

Whose interests were the judges serving? Every citizen of this country deserves a clear answer if he is to preserve his personality and not be just a number.

His Beatitude has expressed his reservations. His reservations constitute Common judgment. However, I do not have faith in the Greek justice system. Everyone from now on must prove that he is worth our trust on a daily basis. No one is full proof. This decision destroys the name of Justice, making it servile to political intrigue.

Whom did the Greek judges remand into custody for the stock- market scandal? Whom did they remand into custody for the bribes given by Siemens and others?

Whom did they remand into custody for the country’s economic ruin and the slurs thrown against the Greek people?

Whom did they remand into custody for the predatory runs into the pockets of the poor? Whom did they remand into custody for the swelling numbers of suicides because of despair and unemployment?

Wow! Greek justice has finally found the mastermind behind all those calamities! It is Abbot Efrem. Greek judges can finally sleep soundly and guilt free. Or, should they stand up and mend the tatters in the name of Justice?

If those who have remanded a priest into custody think that they can wash off the country’s international disgrace, have made a grave mistake.

People recognize all too well, the ones who have turned them into shatters and the ones who are standing by in their hour of their need. This decision will become a boomerang.

This decision does not harm Abbot Efrem as a person; but it discredits our country once again, causing international ridicule.

What a great present did Greek justice give to the Holy Mountain, monasticism, the Church, the faithful and all of us on Christmas Eve!

When dangerous criminals of varying degrees of criminality are let out in the spirit of leniency and grace, Greek justice remands into custody without trial the reverent Abbot of the largest, Greek speaking monastery of Orthodoxy, Elder Efrem of Vatopaidi, well known for his pious life and charitable, loving personality! With this decision it deprives the 120- member brotherhood of their spiritual father at a time they need him most! During holy days!

It deprives the Holy Mountain of one of the greatest pillars of our times.

Does Greek justice truly believe that it will satisfy the common need for justice and that society is protected from the likes of such ‘a dangerous and unscrupulous criminal’? Oh sancta simplicitas!…

Greek people are smart enough, thank God, to be able to recognize the obvious politics at work here.

The decision which sends Elder Efrem to prison, if not questionable, is riddled to say the least, legally, logically and morally and exposes Greece image as a low-abiding country world wide.

What a shame!… Indeed, what a shame! It’s too bad!…

We urgently need a Tertsetis to restore the name of Greek justice in the eyes of the Greeks!

Christmas have become truly bitter cold for Mount Athos, Orthodoxy and the Greeks!…

The Metropolitan of Patra sends daggers against the decision to remand Efrem into custody

In relation to the custody remand decision on Elder Efrem, his Eminence the Metropolitan of Patra, Chrysostomos stated:

‘The decision to remand into custody Abbot Efrem has astounded and mostly saddened the faithful.

It is once again obvious that the name of Monasticism and the Church is damaged in a way which provokes common judgment and religious sentiment, especially during these holy days, when we are celebrating the incarnation of the Son and Word of God.

One is justified to question: Is Abbot Efrem the only problem in Greece these days? Is he the one who endangers public order and safety?

How many dangerous thugs and criminals are walking free and provoke public sentiment?

How many instigators of the hardships which befell our country and our society remain unpunished? What are we, therefore, to make of this situation?

Unfortunately for those who have masterminded and carried out the whole campaign against the Vatopaidi Monastery and fortunately for Efrem, the decision proves that all those who have expressed their reservations right from the start and stated their belief in the Abbot’s innocence, were right.

The Abbot, carrying this particular cross, will come out stronger and will glow spiritually even more. After Golgotha and Crucifixion, the Resurrection follows.

This particular decision was unreasonable and must be rescinded. We believe that Justice will rise to the challenge’.

Nicholaos, Metropolitan of Mesogaias: ‘ Efrem’s custody remand was spiteful’

His Eminence the Metropolitan of Mesogaias and Laverotikis Nicholaos made a significant intervention during the SKY tv news bulletin, referring to the decision to remand the Abbot of Vatopaidi Arch. Efrem into custody.

Among others, the Metropolitan bravely stressed:

-‘The decision reeks of politics at work among political and ecclesiastical circles

- The doctor who examined Fr Efrem should reveal whether he had found him leaving in a cell or in palaces like other real fraudsters.

- The Church is not scared of prison cells. Ever since the times of Christ and the Apostles the Church has imprisoned people among its ranks.

- Some people did not like the extraordinary presence of millions of Russians in the recent pilgrimage in worshiping the Holy Belt and wish to spoil the Greek- Russian relations.

- Greek ‘justice’ frees criminals in the name of leniency while at the same time fills prisons cells with monks.

- This case is being used by those who have destroyed and corrupted this country, in order to cover up their filth, hitting against Orthodoxy.

-With his imprisonment, Elder Efrem will ascend the Golgotha of glory.

The Metropolitan of Fthiotida: «Sinister powers wish to hit against the Holy Mountain’’

The Metropolitan of Fthiotida, Nicholaos, was critical and to the point in his sermon on Christmas Day in the Church of the Annunciation.

Mr Nicholaos referring to the present economic crisis said that the country’s rulers must show greater prudence. He also commented on the recent developments on the decision to remand into custody Arch. Efrem Abbot of Vatopaidi saying that sinister powers are behind all this, wishing to knock the holy community of the Holy Mountain.

During the morning Holy Liturgy a young man was ordained deacon. He hailed from Pelasgia.

The Metropolitan Acheloou. Mr Eythymiou expresses outrage for the decisionto remand into custody Elder Efrem


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