“We have not given any vaccines, elder”, the negative visitors of the hermitage in Karyes proudly inform the extremely old elder Gabriel, who in turn distributes anti-vaccine brochures. The vaccine, the monk explains, is the first step towards “sealing”, while “famous doctors say that those who do it will die within three to five years”. Another danger? The blood banks, which will be “filled with contaminated blood” by the “aborted embryos” contained, supposedly, in the “demonic” preparations.
The videos of the elder, who speaks in bed for the most part, garner tens of thousands of views and hundreds of comments asking for his favor. And the associations with the first days of the arrival of the… blessing of the coronavirus in Greece, from the Holy Land at that time, are inevitable.
In another video, the old Parthenios Agiopavlitis gives his oracle next to an oversized smartphone. He does not deny the existence of the coronavirus – “many times there have been unfortunate years in the world and many people have died”, he reassures – but he also warns that vaccines and health certificates are the fulfillment of the prophecies of Revelation: “When they seal us, we are now slaves not of the true God, but of the devil. And our names will be erased. “We will no longer be baptized in the name of God, but we will be numbers.”
Before saying goodbye to the faithful gathered around him, he proceeds to the necessary prescription of the “medicine” for the coronavirus: a special wish written by Bishop Joel.
They have infected 1,000 out of a total of 1,800
All this at a time when out of a total of 1,800 residents on Mount Athos, about 1,000 have already fallen ill at least once, as reported by “NEA” competent sources from Karyes. Among them, only 500 are vaccinated (mainly with first and second doses), while this week at the Health Center were given 150 third doses.
Among the “permanent residents” are, however, 400 Russians, Serbs, Bulgarians and Romanians, with the latter, as the same sources emphasize, having the reputation of “hardliners” and stubbornly refusing to be vaccinated: “Indeed, when had among the sick called doctors from Belgrade. They did not accept Greeks. At the moment, however, one monastery is in quarantine while two or three do not receive visitors for precautionary reasons “.
The… succession of Paisios
Probably the most famous of all the rascal deniers of Mount Athos, the old man Efthymios in Kalyvi Anastaseos – Kapsala, considered by many as the “successor of Paisios”, discourages the faithful from being vaccinated – for whom his words have the force of law – through letters and letters, where he talks about “serious and unpredictable side effects”. “Higher vaccines” and “immortality drugs”, moreover, are already in the quiver of the faithful, the old man points out. These are the holy mysteries.
Someone more blasphemous, however, would observe that the real miracle is the way in which the violinists' viral sermons manage to acrobatic between medieval mysticism and all-modern technology. Prophecies about… 5G are delivered in front of smart phone cameras and the Byzantine “C” is replaced in the titles of anti-vaccination videos by injectable Latin characters (eg embolism), which manage to exorcise the powerful γό algorithms and keep them hanging one year after their initial publication.
The 40 dead and the civilian
Less marvelous is the price already paid by the Athonite State, where the abbot of the Monastery of Esfigmenos, Archimandrite Bartholomew, estimates that more than 40 people have already lost their lives to Covid-19 – the last two just yesterday. “Valuable people have left, who still had a lot to offer,” he told NEA. At the same time, “several fathers are sick”, while others are intubated. “Our hearts ache.”
Asked about the cases of priests who spread false news about the pandemic and the recent intervention of the Prosecutor's Office of Thessaloniki, he admits that the problem persists both inside and outside the Orchard of the Virgin. The climate prevailing in the Athonite State, however, seems civil war, with the “rebellious” monks calling “settled” those who are drafted by the circular of the Holy Synod and remain faithful to their vitriolic rhetoric about vaccines.
“And they are not going to stop,” the abbot said. “Even if the pandemic passes, they will find something else. They are the ones who blamed the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the Synod of Crete. They have the ideology that the Church is constantly persecuted and they promote an ethnocentrism that believes that we must constantly produce Kolokotronides and Papaflessids. This is an attitude that “sells”, that's why they create enemies and scare the world… “.
Commenting on the phenomenon of the various “prophecies”, he observes: “All these people have also suffered a lot from Agios Paisios, putting false words in his mouth. I had met the Saint. He comforted, he gave hope, this is the attribute of the saints. “Those who try to cause panic are not saints.”
He explains that the rules of monasticism – always within certain limits – provide for obedience to the words of the elders. “Unfortunately, many people come out and try to apply the way monasticism works to the rest of the world. The phenomenon of old age, however, affects the foundations of the Church. “Even inside the monasteries, it is not appropriate for an elder to demand that his nuns not be vaccinated,” he concludes.
Watching the videos of the elders and taking into account their advanced age, the obvious, in most cases, their lack of education, but also the – familiar to those who have met people in the west of their lives – frequent and original repetition of the same stories, it is possible to rush to justify them. It is not certain, however, that he will be able to identify corresponding mitigating factors for those who use their unfortunate catechisms to serve their own purposes.
In any case, the fact remains: as everything shows, the only female who circulates freely on Mount Athos, apart from the Virgin Mary, is Covid-19.