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Vatopedi Monastery Trial Continues: Abbott Ephraim Says He Acted on Legal Counsel

Abbot Ephraim and Monk Arsenios of Vatopedi Monastery of Mt. Athos testified regarding contentious real estate exchange. With their testimonies, the case concerning land deals with the public sector is heading towards its final lap following appeals against earlier rulings that acquitted the defendants.
The appeal concerns arguments from which it appears that charges against the monks and other persons involved are groundless. The monastery points to its right of ownership and the approval of the Holy Community and the Patriarchate regarding the land which the case deals with. The monk states that he was hurt after reading the accusations by state officials regarding the monastery’s ownership of the lake, adding that there was transparency in the deals with lawyers informing all monks of transactions underway.
Regarding the state officials at the trial, Monk Arsenios said that he had seen most of the accused for the first time at the trial. Abbott Ephraim added that he had met along with Arsenios, some ministers pointing to Apostolos Fotadis during the socialist PASOK party’s term of governance, as well as Petros Doukas, Savvas TSitouridis and Evangelos Basiakos during the conservative New Democracy Party’s term.
“Tsitouridis had told us that it was hard to compensate us. That is why he proposed land exchanges. We had not thought of that,” said Abbott Ephraim. “We only cared that the monastery should have a presence in the region for national reasons. The exchange was a decision of the government because it did not want to discuss this further. The other institutions, as we learned, did not agree that the lake belonged to the monastery. That is why they set the condition that real estate exchanges would be outside of the Municipality of Rhodope and Xanthi.”
The Abbott spoke of bitterness concerning his involvement in the case at all, and stressed that his only concern was the good of the monastery. He was disappointed at being called a fraud. He said that he had merely followed the advice of the monastery’s legal consul. “I may have made mistakes, but I am not a fraud,” he said.
The trial will continue on December 15.

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