Greece should keep the tradition of Mount Athos, despite EU pressure

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) hopes that Greece will not succumb to pressure from a number of European parliamentarians and officials, and will preserve the spiritual tradition and history of Athos's status as a multinational center of the entire Orthodox world, said Archpriest Igor Yakymchuk, a representative of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate (DECR) at a press conference on MIA "Russia today" on Friday.

Responding to a question about how to relate to statements heard in the European Parliament, that the current status of Mount Athos does not comply with the legislation of the European Union and it must change, Yakymchuk noted that "since Greece entered the European Union, the question of the status of Mount Athos has been specifically bargained for."

"This issue is an internal affair of the Greek Republic and the European Union has the right to legally intervene, although, of course, all these years we have seen the pressure exerted on Greece, that the status of the Holy Mountain should be changed," said the head of the secretariat for inter-Orthodox relations ROC DECR.

Yakymchuk expressed hope that "this pressure does not lead to bad results, because the Holy Mountain has retained to this day its unique spiritual tradition that has been separated from the rest of the living world, and we do not want it to lose this tradition," said the priest at a briefing dedicated to the celebration in 2016 of the 1000-year anniversary of the presence of Russian monasticism on Mount Athos.

Mount Athos, a peninsula in northeastern Greece, is a special self-governing administrative unit within the Greek state with the center in the town of Karyes. It is one of the main places of pilgrimage in the Orthodox world and has kept unchanged the ancient monastic way of life. Entry onto the territory of Mount Athos for women is a criminal offense, punishable by up to one year in prison.