Posted 28 December 2001 - 01:54 AMVladimir, I am not personally familiar with St Anthony's Monastery or its situation, though I have heard itmentioned on several occasions, usually within the context you suggest. A few thoughts:Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I visited St Anthony's in November 1997. Generally the EcumenicalPatriarch does not visit and speak to groups known as cults. However, one topic of his discussion was awarning against fundamentalism, which is often one of the main charges leveled against the monastery.I managed to find one news article on the monastery from the Voitha website (which, it should be noted,is decidedly
known for unbiased reporting), which sharply critiques the monastery for 'extremefundamentalism'. An excerpt:QuoteArchbishop Spyridon is also an ardent supporter of Fr. Ephraim [abbot of St Anthony's Monastery],whose ministry has reached legendary proportions. Much of his following is comprised of zealots whoenthusiastically admit their devotion to Fr. Ephraim, somehow forgetting that Christ is the focal point of being an Orthodox Christian and it is His teachings we adhere to and follow. Indeed, we are followers of Christ, not of St. George, St. Andrew, Archangel Michael, and certainly not of Fr. Ephraim. In mostinstances, this type of mindset would be characterized as a cult, yet we are told by his spiritual children,who include Fr. George Passias, who serves as the Chancellor, Director of the Office of the Archbishop,and Chairman of the Finance Department, and Fr. Ganas, who serves as President of the TheologicalSeminary, that the practices of Fr. Ephraim represent the true form of Orthodoxy. Some of these practicesinclude women cloaking their heads in Church and not allowing women to venerate an icon or receiveHoly Communion when menstruating. The Ecumenical Patriarch addressed this pressing issue in hissermon at the St. Anthony Monastery in Arizona. He condemned this type of extremism and reaffirmedhis devotion to a healthy Orthodox Church.These types of fundamentalism threaten our very foundation. Fundamentalism breeds hatred andparanoia. Our Church cannot afford to tolerate such distortions of the true faith.I have a strong feeling that this is likely exaggerated: much genuine asceticism can seem 'fundamentalist'to those who are not familiar with it.But I admittedly do not know the whole story.