“The Monks of Mt. Athos” Featured on 60 Minutes this Sunday

From: St. George Greek Orthodox Church of Prescott

This Sunday, on Pascha, CBS is airing a program on the Orthodox monasteries and monks of Mt. Athos! Don’t miss this important program!

NEW YORK, NY [GOARCH] The Holy Mountain Athos, which for over 1000 years has been a sanctuary of Orthodox Christian monasticism, and which is directly under the spiritual jurisdiction of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, will be featured on the CBS News program “60 Minutes”, scheduled to air on Pascha Sunday.

The segment, “The Monks of Mount Athos,” will recount 60 Minutes Correspondent Bob Simon’s journey to a remote peninsula in North Greece that millions of Orthodox Christians consider the most sacred place on earth, Mount Athos.

On the recommendation and with the blessing of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, doors were opened for the 60 Minutes team. After two trips to the mountain and two years of dialogue with the Anthonite community, Simon and the 60 Minutes team were given unprecedented access to document monastic life on the Holy Mountain. The result is a portrait of a place rarely seen, where prayer has been offered by holy men everyday, with no interruption, for more than a thousand years.

The “Monks of Mount Athos” will be broadcast Sunday, April 24, 2011 on the CBS Television Network at 7:00 PM EST. Harry Radliffe and Michael Karzis are the producers of the segment.

60 Minutes is the pre-eminent investigative television news show in the United States and has run on CBS since 1968. It has been among the top-rated TV programs for much of its life and has garnered numerous awards over the years.

The show will also be broadcast over the Internet at www.60minutes.com.


  1. Harry Coin says

    Boy, I hope they don’t follow the lead of the article recently that was all about one of the EP-claimed Athonit monasteries involved up to its neck in financial she-nan-i-gans in Greece.

  2. I watched “The Monks of Mt. Athos” on “60 Minutes” and I found it very interesting and informative. I didn’t realize that it was more difficult for a monk to be accepted at Mount Athos than for a high school senior to be accepted at Harvard University.

    I also did not know that these monks pray for many hours every single day of the year.

  3. Michael Bauman says

    A good piece, but I found it astounding that the interviewer did not know the date of the fall of Constantinople or its significance. Also obvious that many of the words, phrases and attitudes toward prayer that really common amongst we Orthodox are so strange and unknown to others.

    • Rod Dreher says

      That’s true. This morning, I said to a co-worker I know to be a Christian, “Christ is risen!” She just smiled. I realized that had someone said the same thing to me before I became Orthodox, even though I agreed with the statement, I wouldn’t have known what to say. But this morning, I said it without even thinking about it. People who are within Orthodoxy — cradle believers, and even converts after a few years — lose perspective on how strange Orthodoxy can seem, even to sympathetic outsiders.

  4. Mount Athos Monasteries: “Monks of Mount Athos” was informative, but unscriptural. The monks are not doing the will of God. Jesus said to go out into the world and preach the gospel. How can the monks preach the gospel to the world by living in isolation and taking a vow of silence? Furthermore, the monks took a vow of poverty, but poverty is under the curses for disobedience. And keeping the skulls of their dead is sorcery. In addition worshiping icons is idolatry. The monks believe in Christianity; however, they are not Christians (born again)—which means they have not repented of sins and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The monasteries at Mt. Athos, as all other monasteries, practice legalism to please God. In the Book of Galatians, Paul devoted an entire book to combat the heresy of legalism.

    • R. W.,

      Actually, in the book of Galatians Paul battled those who said that one must follow the dictates of the Mosaic Law (also called the Levitical Law) in order to be saved. This is something different that what you mean (although you may not realize it). By “legalism” you mean a cosmic moral law, which is something entirely different than what Paul meant. It came into Evangelical thinking through Martin Luther who read Paul’s references to the “law” in the book of Romans to mean a cosmic moral law, rather than the law of Moses.

      As a result, when Paul posited faith against works, Luther interpreted this to mean that faith stands against moral effort while Paul actually meant the works of the Mosaic Law. That’s why Luther had trouble with the book of James where James wrote “faith without works is dead.” Luther called the book of James an “epistle of straw.”

      James of course was not referring to the works of the (Mosaic) law, but to moral effort. The Orthodox don’t separate faith and moral effort. They agree with James who said that “faith without works is dead,” and that we must show our faith through our works. We don’t hold to Luther’s interpretation. Yes, faith stands against the works of the Mosaic Law. No, faith does not stand against moral effort. If you believe, you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. If you just talk, your faith is dead. James says so in black and white.

      You are using Luther’s misreading of Romans and then spinning it into a doctrine. That’s why you think the monk’s way of life is “legalism.” From the Orthodox point of view you are actually saying they are wrong because they don’t read scripture like the Protestants do. The Orthodox read Romans in the ancient way, the way of the Fathers of the Church. Put another way, your understanding of “legalism” here just does not apply.

      Further, the monks don’t life in isolation. They live in community. And this community is quite open to visitors. In fact, millions have just been afforded a look a vibrant spirituality that predates your Evangelical religion by centuries that actually goes back to the beginning of the Christian Church. Remember that the Apostle Paul first preached in Greece when touching down on the land that would eventually become Europe. Those churches he established still exist. It is called the Orthodox Church. I think all you are really saying is that their model of life does not reflect a community church. That’s true, but Orthodox Christianity has community churches too. I think you may be reacting to the fact that Evangelicalism has no tradition of monasticism.

      One more thing. The monks are born again, just not in the way that you think. Read your scriptures a bit more closely. Here is what the Apostle John says:

      3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

      4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

      5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

      Paul describes baptism as the new birth:

      3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

      Paul equates new birth with baptism. Your idea that the new birth consists in a profession of faith alone is, again, a relatively recent idea.

      I am not going to get into debate over these points. To be clear though let me say this: Some of the ideas you hold do not conform to the teachings of Christianity through out the ages. You are free to believe them of course, but they don’t hold any authority over the Orthodox faith and practice. Below is a video that lays out in clear and charitable terms some of the differences between the Orthodox and Evangelicals about how the Lord saves us and works with us.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        Father Hans

        I admire the care you have taken—in the midst of Holy Week and Pascha!—to provide this intelligent answer to Mr. Reese.

        I confess my own dismay at his e-mail, which is one of the most glaring examples of incomprehension it has ever been my distress to read.

        The poor man (or woman) is deluded in almost every respect. Mount Athos has no vows of silence, no vows of poverty, and his comment about sorcery is . . . . well, what does one say?

        I would not even recognize the Epistle to the Galatians from this person’s uninformed description of it.

        • Thanks Fr. Patrick. Mr. Reese may have some well-meaning interest in Orthodoxy so I wanted to extend the courtesy of a clear answer. He responded out of his Evangelical background, but overall it was an understandable objection given his frame of reference. I’m not interested in debating the points with him, however. There is plenty of information to be found elsewhere (or I can direct him to some) if his interest is indeed genuine. And, if it is, he will come to see that Evangelicalism is not enough. If not, at least he may see that Romans and Galatians don’t say what he thinks it does.

    • Harry Coin says

      “They haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior”– he must have not seen the bit where most of the time they are doing the short prayer asking Jesus adding the title “Son of God” for forgiveness.

      The four bits I wish they would have clarified further were:

      1. There is in a nearby peninsula monasteries for Orthodox women where male tourists are not invited. Do you see women in male Tibetan monasteries? Male Roman Catholic/Vatican monasteries? Men in monasteries for women elsewhere? No.

      2. The idea the suggested in the work was normative — that because one monk formely Bill from MA denied his father the comfort of a death bed visit the suggestion that all of them do– that’s wrong. If you knew the personal stories there you’d find the explaination has to do with issues and histories in that particular family. Certianly it happens but the idea a monk can’t go here or there for a day or a few days when it’s a very big deal.. please. And, other monasteries have fax machines etc, etc…

      3. The monk and former Harvard professor now Maximos, saying ‘there is no art here’ after the segment showed an impressive storage facility for panel after panel after panel of rare and ancient iconography that looked alot like everyone everywhere stores expensive art… Ah, it looks like a duck… That could have used a little more clarifying.

      4. I suppose the worst was the place was portrayed as being free from mistakes and problems and so forth from one end to the other. There are problems, the point is the struggle they do despite them.

    • Ivan Vasiliev says

      It is refreshing to hear from someone so startlingly ignorant of Orthodoxy and the Scriptures. It shows us that, in the midst of our petty little contentions, we have a tremendous responsibility on this continent to “preach the gospel”–the one that Jesus actually gave, not the fabricated and misbegotten understanding of it that arose in Western Europe during the the 16th century. That our brother/sister could have such an incredibly confused understanding of the entire Christian faith is a living testimony that we cannot be sanguine about people leaving the Church for these “evangelical” denominations because they are frustrated with the nonsense going on in Syossett or elsewhere. At issue is the right understanding of the Scriptures, salvation, and the Person of Jesus Christ.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Well, as I remarked to my wife, I wondered what a non-Orthodox’s perspective would be. But to be so outstandingly wrong takes a unique talent:

      The monks are not doing the will of God Aside from the sheer arrogance of such a statement Jesus said that the will of His Father is to Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself (Holy Scripture). Seems as if that is what the monks are attempting to do.

      Jesus said to go out into the world and preach the gospel. How can the monks preach the gospel to the world by living in isolation and taking a vow of silence? The monks of Mt. Athos are looked to throughout the Orthodox world for the clarity of their teaching on the Gospel and how to live it. They are an example that has resonated with us and many others since A.D. 929 when the first monastery was established. That’s roughly 600 years before Luther or any of the Protestants. The entire Protestant tradition has yet to be extant for 600 years. During that time the writings and spiritual direction coming from Athos have led to the conversions of countless people and the strengthening in the faith of millions more.

      There is no vow of silence at all. They take their meals in silence while listing to the word of God because feeding the body is far less imporatant than feeding the soul and communing with God.

      Furthermore, the monks took a vow of poverty, but poverty is under the curses for disobedience. Even granting this rather strange view, the poverty of the monks is precisely because of the tendency of human beings to create idols out of material things and our own creations. St. Paul says quite clearly: “The love of money is the root of all evil” (Holy Scripture) The monks own the monastaries and the pennisula (Mt. Athos is a monastic republic). They, like the early Christians hold all things in common allowing them to devote their lives to prayer and almsgiving (ideally)–as explained in Holy Scripture.

      And keeping the skulls of their dead is sorcery. Wow, you don’t have cemetaries? You don’t ever visit those interned there to remember them, their journey to God and your own inevitable death? They live on a small pennisula, the ground is rocky, they have been ther for over 1000 years–they should grind up the bones and throw them into the sea maybe? It is a constant reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return and only the grace of God allows for anything different. Our life is not of this world. There was no indication at all of any attempt to use the skulls in power rituals which would be such an obscene violation of all that they strive for as to be utterly unthinkable. The garden cemetary that is so prevalent in the western world is a 19th century invention that has the effect of keeping death and the ultimate consequence of sin as far from us as possible and as sanitized as possible.

      In addition worshiping icons is idolatry. Lord have mercy. The Orthodox understanding of icons specifically precludes our worship of them and nothing that the monks do with icons is worship. Glory is always given to God, the undivided Trinity, alone. God makes icons. We are made in His image and likeness. He glorified that likeness and image by taking them on in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus still carries our nature and our body. Is God an idolator?

      The monks believe in Christianity; however, they are not Christians (born again)—which means they have not repented of sins and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.The first act of anyone baptised into the Church (baptised into His death and raised again to life by His grace) is to reject Satan and to accept specifically Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior and declare our desire to be united with Him (monk or not monk). The entire Orthodox life is focused on acknowledging His Lordship, saving Grace and ineffable love. When we fail to do so as is inevitable, we repent in His presence and seek His forgiveness. All but the most nominal of Orthodox Chrisitans spend more time in repentance than you can imagine. The monks do this constantly by their prayers. The full wording of the Jesus Prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” It is said frequently to abide by St. Paul’s direction that we should pray without ceasing, but also because we acknowledge how sinful we are and that only our Lord can cure us and forgive us of our sins. It is a constant acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

      In addition, the most frequent petition in the prayers and liturgies the monks participate in is “Lord have mercy”. In the course of a regular Divine Liturgy celebrated in Orthodox parishes, we petition our Lord for His mercy hundreds of times. The monks lift up that petition daily far more frequently.

      “There are far more things in heaven and earth, R.W. Reese, than are dreamed of in your philosophy”.

  5. Ivan Vasiliev says

    Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

    I thought it was rather well done for a secular media organization. I think they were, in general, very respectful and somewhat in awe of the place. Not bad at all, considering the general hostility of the secular media towards “traditional religion”. It was ironic that the journalists seemed to miss the point that the monks, in giving in to their “persistence” were emulating the Gospel (the importunate widow, the Canaanite woman).

  6. Yes, the monk’s comment on allowing CBS access due to persistence was something I caught immediately.

  7. Michael Bauman says

    Here is a interview with a Roman Catholic monk recently converted to Orthodoxy that is pretty amazing as it sheds further light on the need for monasticism and its practice. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/view/a-catholic-hermits-path-to-orthodoxy

  8. Lillibet says

    I enjoyed the monk stating there was”no art” at the monastery. Of course there is no art. The twinkle in his eye was priceless. The icons, objects, architecture — none of it is art. The contents of the monastery are there to assist in prayer and worship. The fact that 60 Minutes didn’t figure out the truth of the statement, showing the storage facilities as being totally suitable to any major museum, as if they were protecting “art” in the common vernacular, is evidence of most of the world not “getting it.”

    A very lovely Polish woman told me that old home icons were rare, because those icons were often worn off to the wood by being used and cleaned. Her English wasn’t too clear on the details, but she was clear that icons wore out because they were cleaned like other useful objects in the home. Keeping icons near wood fireplaces meant the soot had to be cleaned off from time to time. If they were only painted, the paint would be worn off after no more than three generations passed. She insisted that icons were never worshiped, but were used to focus the mind during prayer.

    So, no art indeed caught my ear, but didn’t surprise me in the least. Of course, the fact that Hitler coveted the artwork, well that just shows how little appreciation Hitler had for the clear distinction between art as art and tools that are beautiful and artistic. indeed. It might be difficult to think of an icon as a hammer, but as a tool, icons can build strong souls.

  9. vanhellslinger says

    The Fraud of Gay Hero’s

    The gay’s have been selling us a bunch of horse manure. One of their favorite lies is the claim that ancient Greeks, Alexander the Great, Hercules, and the Sacred Band of Thebes were gay hero’s. In reality these men were probably victims of a system of education, culture and government that supported and encouraged teaching young boys to be gay. In other words the were gay by learned behavior.

    Young Greek boys were taught to wrestle in the nude, and to love one another, and coerced to accept gay love as a good thing. It is written in history, and generally uncontested that gay sex was part of the educational system in Greece. When you look at the statistics on homosexuality in all the countries past and present, you see that homosexuals were only a small minority of the population. So the probability supports seeing Alexander and the Sacred Band as not being natural gays. The historical facts show his childhood friend and lover to have disappeared or died, and Alexander then married a women. This fact increases the probability that he was straight, and not gay naturally. Alexander and the Sacred Band were, by modern standards, victims of homosexual exploitation. It is probable that the entire 300 men in the Sacred Band of Thebes were heterosexuals, that had learned to accept homosexuality, and never knew any other way of life, and if shown the other way, would refuse gay sex completely.

    The gays have been getting a big laugh at the straight community, every time the debate on whether Alexander was gay or not, because they knew the real debunker would expose gay history as a total fraud. Now don’t let them try that ever again!
    These homosexual monks don’t have me fooled. They don’t allow women on the island because they are all gay. If women disturb them , the lack of women induces homosexual to go there,and why doesn’t that disturb them if they are not gay?

    • Harry Coin says

      Remember- back in those days normal sex led to pregnancy and 50-50 risk of death for the woman because 2/3 the population was 21 and less. Death came early and randomly. That helps to explain why the ‘homosexual’ in those days was understood to be only the male partner who, ah, ‘acted the part of the female’. The other, in those days, wasn’t considered homosexual, but just doing what came naturally in a way that wouldn’t get them killed by a girl’s father.

  10. cynthia curran says

    Well, I would not excuse the Greeks on being bisexual than the Romans. Remember that Alexander had acess to a lot of women as well as men and that excuse that the father would killed him would not work since Alexander was a king and could easily kill the father. A lot of the bisexual were in the upper classes. All the bisexual referances in Roman sources involved future emperors who had easy access to women as well. Suetonius Life of the Twelve Caesars demonstrates this and these were powerful men that had access to a lot of women. Remember Julius Caesar like Alexander was said to had both herosexual and homosexual relations but it seems that Julius who was known for affairs with wives of his collegues preferred women, Servilia -Brutus mother and Cleopatra of course are his most famous mistresses. Julius didn’t fear the husbands didn’t their revenge on him.

    • Harry Coin says

      So, looking over what is written of the strange things the Bill Clintons of that day did… The everyday folk didn’t have the ability to overlook the fact that pregnancy was often a death sentence, if you lived to 21 and were a woman you probably were raising your dead sister’s kids, and your dad protected your ‘honor’ because it was 50-50 he was trying to save your life.