January 23, 2024

Archbishop Elpidophoros Completes His Pilgrimage to Mount Athos and the Sacred Supervisory of the Holy Mountain Issues a Statement

On Tuesday 23 January 2024, the Sacred Supervisory of Mount Athos issued the following statement of clarification in regards to the recent visit of Archbishop Elpidophoros to Mount Athos:

"Following the developments regarding the visit of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America to the Holy State, the Sacred Supervisory is in the unpleasant position of expressing its sorrow for the inaccuracies and untruths of the various publications on various websites. Following this, it clarifies that there was a unanimous decision of the Sacred Community of the Representatives of the twenty Sacred Monasteries, so that there would not be the customary reception of the Hierarch by the Sacred Supervisory, and the Sacred Monasteries would act on the matter according to their judgment.

This unanimous decision of the Sacred Community was taken because of the published photographic material after the end of the mystery of the baptism of the infants in the Sacred Church of Panagia Faneromeni in Vouliagmeni (about which baptism no qualms were expressed by us). Due to the participation of His Eminence the Archbishop of America in the photographs after the mystery, and in fact in official ecclesiastical garb, a false impression was created regarding the acceptance by the Church of the mystery of marriage for those of the same-sex, a message contrary to the dogmas and teachings of the Orthodox Church."

This statement makes clear that the Sacred Community of the Holy Mountain had no issue with the baptism of the children by the Archbishop, but it was the pictures taken afterwards that caused a scandal, and for this reason it was left up to each individual monastery of Mount Athos to decide whether or not to receive him and how to receive him.

According to reports, instead of going straight to Karyes and visiting the Sacred Supervisory upon his arrival, per their request though this would be the proper procedure under normal conditions, Archbishop Elpidophoros went straight to Xenophontos Monastery, where he was welcomed by Abbot Alexios, as the Archbishop wrote on Facebook: "We begin this holy pilgrimage to Mount Athos with a profound sense of awe and joy, welcomed by Elder Alexios, the Αbbot of the Holy Monastery of Xenophontos. May our pilgrimage be blessed!" "We celebrated the Feast of Theophany at the Holy Monastery of Xenophontos."

From there the Archbishop went to visit the Sacred Community on his way to Philotheou Monastery, but no one was there to greet him due to it being the feast of Theophany according to the Old Calendar, so after venerating the Holy Icon of Axion Estin in the Church of Protaton they proceeded to Philotheou.

It should be noted that Archbishop Elpidophoros and his entourage were guarded on a twenty-four-hour basis by five policemen, two from the Mount Athos Police Department and three from Thessaloniki from the Bomb Disposal Department.

Abbot Nikodemos then welcomed the Archbishop at Philotheou Monastery. The Archbishop wrote on Facebook: "In our Greek Orthodox community in America, Philotheou Monastery holds a unique place in our hearts. It is the birthplace of Orthodox Monasticism in the United States, founded by the revered late Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, whose influence remains deeply etched in our church. This is precisely why, on my visit to Philotheou Monastery, I was keen not to journey alone but rather to guide a group of pilgrims—devout laypeople, each significant in their own right. It was important for me to present them the origins of our monasteries in America and illustrate their profound connections to Orthodoxy and the Orthodox Spirituality of Mount Athos."

Then he went to Simonopetra Monastery, as he records: "During the heartfelt reception at the Holy Monastery of Simonos Petra, I seized the opportunity to reiterate the unwavering faithfulness of the Greek-American community. They demonstrate their commitment by dedicating their personal time and efforts for the betterment of our Church. Their love and reverence for Mount Athos are profound. Whenever possible, I encourage them to make a pilgrimage to Mount Athos."

After stopping by Karakallou Monastery and being welcomed there, his last stop was at Pantokratoros Monastery, as the Archbishop wrote: "The last stop of our pilgrimage to Athos: Pantokratoros Monastery." After this they also visited the Cell of Saint Anna under Iveron Monastery, then departed for Ouranoupolis to return to Thessaloniki.

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