This is what Elder Efrem said to the monks who met him to take his blessing according to agioritikovima.gr.
‘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’.
‘Most of the faithful perceive you as a confessor you is led into prison without any justification’ said the monks to him.
He 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.
Monday, 26 December 2011
A few minutes ago, the members of the Holy Community of the Holy Mountain expressed their overwhelming support for Abbot Efraim of the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi.
According to information, today, Monday 26 December, 2011, a delegation from the Holy Community of the Holy Mountain visited Abbot Efraim in his cell in the monastery.
The members handed over a letter of support to the Abbot, stressing that the entire Community expressed its unstinting confidence in and respect for his person.
In their letter, the Representatives of the Holy Monasteries of the Holy Mountain emphasized that the decision to place Abbot Efraim in preventative detention was an affront to the religious sensibilities of the people, the most holy Church and Athonite monasticism.
The letter reads as follows:
SEAL OF THE HOLY COMMUNITY
Ref. No. Φ. 4/5/3069
The Very Reverend
of the H. M. of Vatopaidi
and the honourable brotherhood with him
We embrace Your Reverence in brotherhood in the Lord.
It is with profound sorrow and great astonishment that we have been informed of the issue of an arrest warrant for the immediate preventative detention of Your Reverence.
It causes us and the whole Athonite world deep pain that this hasty issue and dispatch of the above arrest warrant should have occurred on the days leading up to the glorious feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as do the inexplicable haste and immediate mobilization of a powerful force of police and the urgent delegation of a prosecutor, in disregard of Athonite procedures, for Your arrest, as if it were the case of an extremely dangerous malefactor. These actions are an affront to the religious sensibilities of the faithful, of our most holy Church and of Athonite monasticism.
Holy fathers and brethren, we share your profound pain at this unprecedented tribulation and the cross you are bearing during these holy days, when your Spiritual Father, known from his youth for his love of the Church and monasticism, as well as his contribution over many years to Your Holy Monastery and the Holy Mountain in general, has been dragged away and taken into detention. His treatment has been an offence against the whole Athonite fraternity.
In sharing the pain of Your trial, we express through this present letter, sealed with Our stamp, the unanimous support of Our Holy Community, encompassing the holy Abbot with Our undivided respect, trust and genuine love in Christ.
We pray from the depths of our hearts that Our Lord, Who became incarnate for Our salvation, through the intercessions of Our Lady the Mother of God, the guardian of this Holy Place, will strengthen all of You, will bring this trial to a satisfactory conclusion and will disperse the shafts of the enemy and of those who are against the Church.
With much love in the Lord and with brotherly affection, we remain
All the Representatives and Stewards
of the twenty Holy Monasteries of the Holy Mountain of Athos.
The abbot of the prestigious Vatopedi monastery in Mount Athos, Greece has been imprisoned pending trial for alleged fraud and embezzlement.
Archimandrite Ephraim, 56, is accused of arranging land swaps between Vatopedi and the state which are thought to have cost the government millions of euros.
The abbot, now being held in Korydallos prison in Athens, denies wrongdoing. His arrest has triggered protests in Greece, Cyprus, Russia and other christian orthodox countries.
What is Archimandrite Ephraim accused of?
Mount Athos monks rallied for Abbot Ephraim
Vatopedi is part of the ancient Mount Athos monastic community that has been visited by Britain’s Prince Charles and Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The controversial deal saw valuable state land traded for less valuable land held by Vatopedi. It is said to have cost the state some EURO 100 million ($129.42m). None of the involved state officials have been accused, prosecuted or detained, some have even been promoted.
“They rushed Efraim to jail … while others who have embezzled Greek people’s money remain at large,” said George Karatzaferis, leader of the far-right LAOS party which is part of Greece’s coalition government.
Despite parliamentary investigations into several public officials, no senior politician has so far been charged.
“Undoubtedly the pre-trial jailing could create the impression, in one part of Greek society, that finally someone is paying for a such a big scandal,” said Costas Panagopoulos, head of ALCO pollsters.
“But it also reminds everyone that all politicians involved in this case are left unpunished,” he said.
The government’s anti-corruption crackdown hit another snag on Wednesday when two newly-appointed special prosecutors targeting economic crime resigned, complaining of political meddling. They did not give details.
Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou replied accusing the critics of “interfering in the work of the justice system”.
Cyprus protesters for freeing Archimandrite Ephraim
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.”
“The detention of Mr. Ephraim is another impropriety of Greek justice. It violates the fundamental principle of rule of law dictates that no one is deprived of liberty only after a decision legally consisting court. Temporary custody is a derogation from this principle because it is ordered without a court has ruled on the guilt of a person and therefore justified only in extreme cases when the accused is suspected of absconding or is likely to commit new offenses.
The law governing the detention (Article 282 CCP) is detailed and fully consistent with the exceptional nature of the measure. It requires not only the accused is suspected escape, but have gone in flight preparations. Not only is likely to commit new offenses, but very likely that they will commit. […] With these data, the pre-trial detention is completely arbitrary and has no basis in law.”
Prof. Tsakyrakis added:
It is Mr. Ephraim the only victim of judicial arbitrariness that sends people to prison without a court to rule on guilt, only because the investigating judge and the prosecutor consider them guilty. Two of them, for Mr. A. Sotiropoulou and daughter accused of scandal Zimens I publicly complained in the past. Our judges, however, do not seem to pay attention. They still consider custody as a means of power that allows them to imprison someone accused by themselves and not according to the law. The anxiety of most defendants in Greece is not the trial (which nobody knows when it will take place) but to avoid detention. […]
Russia supports the release of Archimandrite Ephraim
The Russian Orthodox Church’s head of foreign relations, Metropolitan Ilarion, called the abbot’s detention “an extraordinary event, arousing profound bewilderment”
“We are deeply concerned by the ruling of the Greek judiciary to put him under pre-trial detention, despite the recommendations of the European Court of Human Rights” the Russian foreign ministry said.
Patriarch Kirill asks Greek president to release Abbot Ephraim
Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill
Archimandrite Ephraim, Abbot of Vatopedi Monastery
Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill has sent a message to Greek President Karolos Papoulias to express his concern regarding the custody of Archimandrite Ephraim, Abbot of the Mount Athos Vatopedi Monastery.
“It is my duty to convey our common concern to the chief of the Greek state and to request the release from custody of Archimandrite Ephraim, superior of the Mount Athos Vatopedi Monastery,” says the message posted on the Russian Orthodox Church website.
“I do not question the powers of the Greek law enforcement officials and express hope for a fair and impartial decision regarding the property of the Vatopedi Monastery. However, I am perplexed by the custody of the monk, who is not a danger to society and has repeatedly expressed readiness to cooperate with detectives, prior to the court hearing of the case merits,” he said.
Patriarch Kirill said he was particularly concerned about Archimandrite Ephraim’s ill health, which was ignored in taking him into custody.
“In Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and other countries, whose peoples are the traditional flock of the Russian Orthodox Church, millions of believers are alarmed by the police measures taken as regards the hegemon of the famous Athos monastery well-known to the entire Orthodox world on the days Orthodox Greece celebrates Christmas,” he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern about the custody of Archimandrite Ephraim on Wednesday.
There was no intention to flee the country to escape a trial, Abbot Ephraim was in Russia accompanying the Belt of the Most Holy Mother of God for more than one month in fall. Approximately three million believers worshiped the holy object from Athos in that period.
Protests in Russia for freeing Archimandrite Ephraim
Support Crowd in Moscow
Russia’s Orthodox St.Andrew Foundation has held a protest campaign in the vicinity of EU Moscow office to support Archimandrite Ephraim, superior of the Vatopedi Monastery in Athos who had been arrested earlier. The Fund arranged the delivery of the Most Holy Mother of God Belt from Athos earlier this autumn.
The protesters believe it is cruel and inhumane to keep Father Ephraim under arrest given the state of his health and age. A similar rally was organized near the Greek Embassy in Moscow.
The President of the Hellenic Republic,
The Prime Minister,
The Attorney General
24 December 2011
We hereby condemn with abhorrence the judicial ‘’crime’ committed in Athens on the 23rd December 2011, against the Church in the face of Elder Efrem, Abbot of the Great, Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi in the Holy Mountain.
The decision to take Elder Efrem into custody was based on hatred and prejudice. This is manifested in the following:
- The timing of the decision: Christmas Eve
- The surrounding of the Holy Mountain by armed police forces despite the declaration by the attorney representing the Elder that the latter intended to present himself to the police willingly.
- The sentence passed is normally given to people who have the intention to repeat the offences accused of.
- During the preliminary hearing the reason given for the sentence was the Elder’s recent trip to Russia, when he accompanied the Holy Belt of the Most Holy Mother of God. During this visit millions of people, including the President, the Prime Minister and the Attorney General of the Russian Republic came out to greet them.
- The investigation lasted more than three years and no incriminating evidence has been found.
- The offense which the Elder is accused of is ‘instigation’ even though the suspects of this offence have been acquitted.
- During the last three years of the investigation, the Elder has taken numerous trips abroad and if he had intended to leave the country he had plenty of opportunity to do so.
- The Elder, as a spiritual figure, is honored and praised worldwide and constitutes an excellent envoy for Greece.
- The people who have been revealed as the masterminds of the conspiracy against him have been honored with ministerial posts and are attempting to cover up their deception at all costs.
- In Greece, enormous scandals have been uncovered and established while those responsible are not only walking free but are also given political posts.
We are convinced that the decision is a deliberate political act intending to defame the Holy Mountain and the Church.
We call upon you to do the utmost to reverse it.
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The letter is also available in romanian
Prieteni şi prietene,
Cutremuraţi şi rămaşi fără grai, noi, ortodocşii de pretutindeni, greci sau nu, am aflat de hotărârea cu totul neîntemeiată a Curţii de Apel din Atena, privind arestul preventiv al Părintelui Stareţ Efrem.
Această evoluţie neaşteptată a evenimentelor ne îndeamnă să semnăm, în semn de dezaprobare a acestei hotărâri şi de susţinere a Părintelui Stareţ Efrem, scrisoarea ataşată şi să facem demersuri pentru semnarea ei de toţi cei care sunt de acord cu conţinutul ei.
Vă dorim un Crăciun fericit!