Patriarch appeal to rebel monks

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios yesterday appealed to a group of ultra-Orthodox monks occupying the Esphigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos to «return to the fold» during a visit to the ancient monastic community. Vartholomaios, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox faithful, called upon his «misguided brothers» to end their «illegal» 17-month occupation of the building and «return to the loving embrace of the Church and Mount Athos.» «No one can lack a spiritual father,» the patriarch said during a ceremony to lay the foundation stone for a new building in Karyes, the monastic community’s administrative center, to replace the one occupied by the rebels. The ceremony, attended by Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis and a Thessaloniki prosecutor, was «the correct move to restore an ugly, irregular, illegal situation which has been provoking discontent,» according to Vartholomaios. Abbot Chrysostomos, who was appointed last year to replace the rebel abbot Methodius, insisted that the monks’ occupation «will not deter us.»