Ephraim meets Patriarch, resigns

Ephraim, the monk that heads the Vatopedi Monastery which is under investigation for its role in an alleged corrupt land exchange with the state, tendered his resignation yesterday after a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios. «Upon his return to the monastery, Prior Ephraim has pledged to inform his brotherhood of his intention to resign from his administrative duties for a period of time,» the Patriarchate said in a statement. Vartholomaios, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, asked Ephraim to appear before him and the Holy Synod after the monk refused to answer questions from MPs who are probing the land swap as part of an ongoing parliamentary investigation. The Istanbul-based Patriarchate, rather than the Church of Greece, has authority over the Mount Athos monastery. In its statement, the Patriarchate also expressed faith in the justice system, which is investigating claims that the land deal led to taxpayers being shortchanged to the tune of 100 million euros. Parliament continued its inquiry on Friday, as deputies questioned for a second day another monk, Evdokimos, who is responsible for managing Vatopedi’s financial affairs. On Thursday, Evdokimos had revealed the extent of the monastery’s financial investments, including a portfolio of some 90 million euros, but yesterday he was less forthcoming with information. At several points during his examination, he evaded some questions by invoking a law that allows witnesses not to respond, even though this could count against them when a judgment is issued. One of the questions that he refused to answer was how many meetings monks had with ministers before the details of the property exchange were finalized.