Vatopedi: The Other Side of the Story

Thankfully, not a whole lot has been mentioned about the “Athonites” (read: Ephraimites) on Monomakhos. The same can’t be said about the rest of the Orthosphere and the MSM. The dominant meme seems to be that the Elders of Vatopedi (a monastery on Mt Athos) have used financial wizardry to increase their influence. Many have played fast and loose with allegations such as these. Not a few parish priests in the US peddle in these stories. Why? Mo$t probably to $top the flood of pilgrim$ who are tired of Las Vegas Nights at the local modernist parish and choose instead to attend their local Athonite monastery.

But there’s always another side to the story.

Thanks to Byzantine, TX, it looks like that at least on one occasion, a court in Greece found that the various charges bandied about have no basis in fact. Read for yourself. It’s always good to remember that there are always two sides to every story. (As usual, a hefty muchas gracias to Byzantine, TX for bringing this story to light.)

ephraimSource: Byzantine, TX

(Pravoslavie) – On January 10, the Romphea Greek Church agency reported the judicial decision of the first instance court of the city of Athens on the journalist Kostas Vaxevanis, who was the first to begin the media campaign against elder Ephraim and the Vatopedi Monastery.

The court has pronounced that the publications of Vaxevanis on the internet and in the Epikera weekly magazine contained false information and were an insult to the dignity of the Athonite monastery and its abbot. More than that, the journalist well knew that he was operating with false information.

The court ruling obliges Vaxevanis to publish a disclaimer and to transfer 10,000 Euros to the monastery’s account for moral damage.

The Vatopedi Monastery has already announced the transfer of this sum to dining halls for the needy, run by the Archdiocese of Athens.


  1. Gail Sheppard says

    I’m not surprised, but glad to read this. 🙂

  2. Yes, this is all nice but what about marriages that have been destroyed because one spouse thinks he or she needs to ask the Ephraimite monk when and whether the married couple can have sexual relations? A monk would know about this?

    • NMOM, what does your comment have to do with Vatopedi monastery on Mt. Athos?

    • NMOM (February 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm) says:

      Yes, this is all nice but what about marriages that have been destroyed because one spouse thinks he or she needs to ask the Ephraimite monk when and whether the married couple can have sexual relations? A monk would know about this?
      Fr Ephraim of Vatopaidi is not the same man as the Fr Ephraim in Arizona, whose monks are often maligned unjustly.

    • William Harrington says

      Seems that may be the couples problem. If they wish to be ultra canonical, the guidelines are there. If one wishes to be ultra-canonical and the other doesn’t, then the couple has a problem. Why would you blame a monk?

  3. Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

    The first exposure of the financial wheelings and dealings at Vatopaidi on Mount Athos may be found by clicking on this link to the big Vanity Fair magazine’s article on the place and its financial expertise a couple years ago with lots of pictures of the dramatis personae in the brouhaha which has been scandalizing Greece and even fascinating business schools in America:
    The place is probably the envy of the Vatican’s financial officers.
    Best to skip to page three, four, and so on if you want to read only of the monastery’s hanky-panky and not much of Greece’s financial plight in general.

    • Isa Almisry says

      This pretty much sums it all up:
      “ather Arsenios looks to be in his late 50s—though who knows, as their beards cause them all to look 20 years older. He’s about as famous as you can get, for a monk: everyone in Athens knows who he is. Mr. Inside, the consummate number two, the C.F.O., the real brains of the operation. “If they put Arsenios in charge of the government real-estate portfolio,” a prominent Greek real-estate agent said to me, “this country would be Dubai. Before the crisis.” …But I also wondered how a bunch of odd-looking guys who had walked away from the material world had such a knack for getting their way in it: how on earth do monks, of all people, wind up as Greece’s best shot at a Harvard Business School case study? After about two hours I work up the nerve to ask him. To my surprise he takes me seriously. He points to a sign he has tacked up on one of his cabinets, and translates it from the Greek: the smart person accepts. the idiot insists. He got it, he says, on one of his business trips to the Ministry of Tourism. “This is the secret of success for anywhere in the world, not just the monastery,” he says, and then goes on to describe pretty much word for word the first rule of improvisational comedy, or for that matter any successful collaborative enterprise. Take whatever is thrown at you and build upon it. “Yes … and” rather than “No … but.” “The idiot is bound by his pride,” he says. “It always has to be his way. This is also true of the person who is deceptive or doing things wrong: he always tries to justify himself. A person who is bright in regard to his spiritual life is humble. He accepts what others tell him—criticism, ideas—and he works with them.”…I tracked down Peter Doukas, the official inside the Ministry of Finance first accosted by the Vatopaidi monks. Doukas now finds himself at the center of the two parliamentary investigations, but he had become, oddly, the one person in government willing to speak openly about what had happened. (He was by birth not an Athenian but a Spartan—but perhaps that’s another story.) Unlike most of the people in the Greek government, Doukas wasn’t a lifer but a guy who had made his fortune in the private sector, inside and outside of Greece, and then, in 2004, at the request of the prime minister, had taken a post in the Finance Ministry. He was then 52 years old and had spent most of his career as a banker with Citigroup in New York…Not long after Doukas began his new job, two monks showed up unannounced in his Finance Ministry office. One was Father Ephraim, of whom Doukas had heard; the other, unknown to Doukas but clearly the sharp end of the operation, a fellow named Father Arsenios…By now Doukas thought of these monks less as simple con men than the savviest businessmen he had ever dealt with. “I told them they should be running the Ministry of Finance,” he says. “They didn’t disagree.” In the end, under pressure from his boss, Doukas signed two pieces of paper…”

      IOW the pinheads of Harvard and elsewhere are furious that they were beat at their own game by a bunch of country bumpkins, rubes locked up in a monastery. Humility beats hubris, and hubris isn’t too happy about that.

  4. Ilya Zhitomirskiy says

    It’s terrible that people would accuse Athonite monks of shenanigans like these. It is good that someone also exposed the accusations for what they are- fake. Hopefully the monks in Arizona and Mount Athos will be able to do what they do best, pray for the rest of us, and urge us to imitate Christ. God grant many years to our monks and those who minister to them!

  5. No one seems to be able to figure out what, if anything, the monks or monastery did wrong. Originally the property’s value was estimated by investigators far in excess of what it was actually worth, thus the appearance of a hyper-sweetheart deal. Then the real valuation came out, not so sweetheart a deal. Then charges of fraud. Then they were cleared of the fraud charges for lack of evidence. Then came prosecution for violating the confidentiality of a legal conference. Then clearance for that alleged breach. Then more charges.

    Sounds like an anti-monastic crock to me. Vanity Fair is not exactly a religion-friendly publication and probably did not have the familiarity with the political situation, the law and the language to even yield the possibility of objectivity to a story it ran back in 2010, before a number of bad decisions were overturned.

    That’s not to say that the monks are necessarily innocent. Time will tell. It does seem though that there’s an agenda at work in the prosecution.

    • anonymus per Scorilo says

      Sounds like an anti-monastic crock to me.

      It is not an anti-monastic crock. It is punishment for taking the Holy Belt of the Theotokos to Russia a few weeks before the elections that Putin’s party won in Fall 2011. Apparently some people realized that the religious fervor this caused changed the mood of the country and helped the ruling party win. Soon after Fr. Ephrem returned to Greece these long-put-aside charges were resurrected, and he was dumped in prison for some trumped-up reasons (representing a flight risk, or something equally absurd). I am glad to see the justice is beginning to clear him up.

  6. A Lenten Gospel reading according to St. Matthew proceeds in this manner:

    “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.” And so on…

    Where is the difficulty? Well, perhaps in the hearts of those fundamentally oriented to this world, who have become envious because things never seemed to go their way.

    What… Do we think God is bad with money and so doesn’t really know how finances work? Where did the gold come from to adorn the Mosaic Tabernacle in the wilderness? Where did Solomon’s wealth come from to build the Temple? Recall Constantinople & the Hagia Sophia in all of their glory.

    “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through the Anointed One Who strengthens me.” – St. Paul