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Monk's arrest in Greece exposes contest for world's Orthodox leadership

January 10, 2012

The head of a famous Orthodox monastery in Greece has been arrested, in a complex case that reflects a contest for power between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow.

Abbot Hegumen Ephraim of the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos faces charges in connection with the sale of land. The arrest is surprising because the Greek government has traditionally avoided any interference with the affairs of the monks at the monasteries of Mount Athos.

Mount Athos is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. But Abbot Ephraim has close ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, and his arrest came immediately after he returned from a trip to Moscow. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has asked the Greek government to release the aged monk; Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has been silent.


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