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Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople rebukes Moscow on interference in Greece

Catholic World News - January 11, 2012

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople has issued a statement expressing concern about the arrest of a prominent monk from a monastery on Mount Athos, but decried the intervention of the Russian Orthodox Church in the case.

Commenting on the arrest of Abbot Hegumen Ephraim of the Vatopedi monastery, the Ecumenical Patriarchate expressed its “sorrow in connection with the situation” but said that the Orthodox Church would not interfere with the judicial process. The Orthodox monk faces charges arising from a real-estate transfer.

The Russian Orthodox Church, with which the accused abbot has strong ties, has appealed for his release. But the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in a rebuke to Moscow, pointed out that Mount Athos falls under the canonical jurisdiction of Constantinople, and other Orthodox churches should not become involved in the matter.

The monk's arrest, and the contrasting reactions from Moscow and Constantinople, underline a continuing contest for authority in the Orthodox world. The Patriarchate of Constantinople is traditionally recognized by other churches as the "first among equals" in Orthodox leadership. But the Moscow Patriarchate claims the allegiance of by far the largest number of Orthodox faithful.

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