On February 11, 2019, the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church Department for External Church Relations published an interview with Metropolitan Bishop Hilarion. He focuses on information coming from Mount Athos concerning the recognition of the new autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine:
“There is contradictory information coming from Mount Athos. On one hand, we saw two Athonite abbots going to Kyiv for the ‘enthronement’ of a new head of the schism legalized by Constantinople, with Father Xenophon attending the event, while the abbot of Vatopedi monastery fell ill, but managed to take a picture with the leaders of the schismatics. On the other hand, we hear the delegation of the Ukrainian schismatic structure was not allowed to enter St. Panteleimon monastery, and that after the visit of this delegation, seven monks left Vatopedi.
Evidently, the legalization of the Ukrainian schism by Patriarch Bartholomew has caused new divisions: one of them is being formed before our eyes in the very heart of the Patriarchate of Constantinople – on the Holy Mountain, Mount Athos.
Throughout the centuries, Mount Athos has been standing guard over the Church truth and canonical order. And now it has to make a choice: to continue its ages-old vigil for the canonical truth or to obey the lawless decision made by the Patriarch of Constantinople. This choice is to be made by the Athonite monastic brotherhood as a whole and each monastery in particular.
The Athonites know very well Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and All Ukraine. Until recently, he was their frequent guest. I saw him once there, and could hardly recognize him in the among the monks, as he stood modestly, wearing an ordinary black monastic habit in the Greek fashion and wearing no pectoral icon. And many other hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church used to come to Mount Athos on a regular basis. And now Patriarch Bartholomew has declared their Church non-existent.
We all love Mount Athos and we have gone there many times with joy when it was possible. But we don’t love it for its antiquity or its architecture and beautiful landscapes. We love it first of all for the fact that it stands for an important pillar of the Church truth for millions of Orthodox believers, for the prayers for peace offered by the Athonite monks, and for the striking spiritual tranquility that everyone can experience there.
The spiritual atmosphere of Mount Athos is unique. It has been created by the efforts of many generations of monks. And many Athonite monks are right to fear that it may be destroyed if Mount Athos becomes open to women, as European politicians have repeatedly proposed to do. But isn’t communion with the schismatics fraught with even more dangers for the whole order of monastic life? Will not Mount Athos turn into the salt which has lost its savor (Mt. 5:13), if the troubled waters of the schism flood this holy place?
I sincerely hope that in this situation, which has suddenly touched it, Mount Athos will make the only right choice – the one in favor of canonical order. And I thank all the Athonite monks and abbots who have already made this choice.”
Source in English