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Greece: Abbot Released Over Ecclesiastical Real-Estate Scandal

Mixed online reactions have met the news that Elder Ephraim, abbot of Vatopedi monastery on Greece's Mount Athos, who was implicated in a scandal arranging land swaps between Vatopedi and the state, has been released from jail after only four months of detention. The scandal cost the Greek government millions of euros.

The court's decision defines as the release penalty [el] 300,000 euro and includes restrictions regarding Elder Ephraim leaving both the country and Mount Athos.

Elder Ephraim, abbot of Vatopedi monastery in Mount Athos. Profile picture from Twitter account @GerontasEfraim.

Elder Ephraim, abbot of Vatopedi monastery in Mount Athos. Profile picture from Twitter account @GerontasEfraim.

Abbot Ephraim had been jailed on December 2011, pending trial for alleged fraud and embezzlement. The infamous Vatopedi real-estate scandal in 2008 meant high-value state property was traded for less valuable land held by Vatopedi, in a deal with the New Democracy government of previous Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis.

Abbot Ephraim, as a person of the Church, is respected and “worshipped” by many faithful Christian believers, who all this time have expressed their solidarity and support through social media, as this page on Facebook, this blog [website is currently down] and the Twitter account @GerontasEfraim [no longer existing] demonstrate. Following is a video [el] by YouTube user GeronNektarios, that shows the warm greeting of Ephraim outside Korydallos jail in 2011, where people were shouting “Axios!” [He is worthy!]. 

However, the fact that he, as the head of Vatopaidi monastery, was implicated in such a political, social and economical scandal has brought forth turmoil and a real outcry from the public.

This scandal underlined the firm bonds between the Orthodox Church of Greece and the Greek state and is another argument for those who demand, firstly, the distinction between state and religion and, secondly, the taxation of the Church, as its properties are exempt from the recent austerity measures.

The Russian Orthodox church and country's President Vladimir Putin, had reportedly lobbied the Greek government to reconsider the imprisonment of Abbot Ephraim. The Russian Federation Embassy in Athens tweeted [el]:

@RFEmbassyGr: Στο Άγιο όρος έφτασε χθες το βράδυ ο Εφραίμ, όπου του επιφύλαξαν θερμή υποδοχή στο λιμανάκι των Καρυών οι μοναχοί sportdog.gr/article/95683/…

@RFEmbassyGr: Yesterday evening Ephraim arrived at Mt. Athos, where he was warmly greeted by monks at Karyes port sportdog.gr/article/95683/…

Here are some bitter reactions from Twitter [el]:

@eddie_kappa: Έχουμε μια “δικαιοσύνη” που αποφυλακίζει τον Εφραίμ και θεωρεί τροχαίο ατύχημα τη δολοφονική επίθεση του δελτά πάνω σε διαδηλώτρια.

@eddie_kappa: We have a “justice” that gets Ephraim out of jail and considers the murder attack of a special forces police officer against a woman protester as a road accident.

@FragileAlex: Θερμή υποδοχή για τον Εφραίμ στο Άγιο Όρος! Δεν είναι δα και ο πρώτος απατεώνας που χαίρει εκτίμησης… Βρίθει ο τόπος.

@FragileAlex: Warm greeting of Ephraim at Mt. Athos! After all, he isn't the first crook that enjoys esteem…Whole country is full.

@eVaN_GiAn: Σε ένα λεπτο βρήκε τα 300.000€ ο Εφραίμ για την εγγύηση του. Αυτο ως απάντηση σε όσους λένε ότι περνάει κρίση ο κτηματομεσιτικός τομέας

@eVaN_GiAn: Ephraim found 300.000 euros for release penalty in a minute. This is the answer to those claiming that real-estate market is on crisis.

@Mythodea_g: @eVaN_GiAn είχε το θεό μαζί του

@Mythodea_g: He had God on his side.

@Moggoloss: Και την 90η μέρα εμφανίζεται ο Θεός στον Εφραίμ και ρωτάει: Πως μπορω να σε βοηθήσω τέκνο μου; Παντοδύναμε χρειάζομαι 300.000€. Και Εγένετο.

@Moggoloss: And by the 90th day, God appears in front of Ephraim and asks: How could I help you, my child? Almighty God, I need 300,000 euro. And thus it happened.

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