The Hitler Icon: How Mount Athos Honored the Führer

 

hitler_icon1288192000
An image of Adolf Hitler greeted visitors to Mount Athos in 1941 (Source: Mönchsland Athos)

NOTE: Political instability in Greece during the mid-20th century that affected Mount Athos included Nazi occupation from the Easter season of 1941 through late 1944, followed immediately by the Greek Civil War in a struggle where Communist efforts failed. The Battle of Greece was reported in Time Magazine [see the end of this article]. After the Nazi takeover of Greece, the Epistassia, Athos’s four-member executive committee, formally asked Hitler to place the Autonomous Monastic State under his personal protection, and Hitler agreed. Mount Athos survived World War II nearly untouched, and for the remainder of the war, the monks of Mount Athos referred to Adolf Hitler as “High Protector of the Holy Mountain” (German: Hoher Protektor des heiligen Berges).

In an attempt to defend and justify Mount Athos’ allegiance with Hitler during WWII, Greek Orthodox apologists state that it was simply a strategic measure to protect the mountain from Bulgarian occupation and de-hellenization.1 They criticize the jouranlists who write “negatively” about this incident in Athonite history as “slanderers” and “accusers” of the Church; purposely hiding this important information in an attempt to tarnish Mount Athos’ image. However, these Orthodox apologists fall into the same “sin of concealing facts.” The defenders of Athos fail to mention that in the time leading up to the war—especially during the 30s—the Hagiorites were consumed with fervor and anticipation for Constantinople’s liberation as foretold in spurious prophecies that are not officially accepted by the Orthodox Church or the Church Fathers. Yet, the majority of Athonite monks during the 30s not only believed in them, but felt that they were living through their fulfillment.

The Anonymous Prophesy of 1053,2 was a popular prophecy on everyone’s lips before and during the war. This prophecy was virtually unheard of in the Orthodox world until 1914.3 There was a belief that Germany would be the first country to become Orthodox after the “New European War.”4

A common belief of Athonite monks during the 30s, as conveyed in various publications by pilgrims of that era was:

“You know Germany is going to become Orthodox very soon. The Holy Fathers have prophesied it. It is said that there is now a great king ruling in Germany, who slaughters all the Jews and Bolsheviks. We love him for that. It is the beginning of the prophecy.”5

The Triple Occupation of Greece by the Axis Powers (1941-1944)
Germany (red), Italy (blue), Bulgaria (green).

THERE IS A PIOUS notion out there that organized religion, if practiced devoutly enough, can preserve human beings from immoral thoughts and actions, particularly those stemming from the seductions of supposedly secular political ideologies. The Protestants have their “mighty fortress” of Lutheran song and liturgy, the Catholics have their eternal Vatican, and the Greek Orthodox Church preserves its theological purity in the twenty monasteries of Mount Athos, “the Garden of the Virgins,” on a peninsula in northern Greece, where all females – including dogs and cats – are banished from the premises so as to protect the monks from any impure sensations.* However, even the most cursory glance at the historical record reveals that the devout are not only as likely as anyone else to fall for a totalitarian bill of goods, they may even be more susceptible than the average citizen.

Mount Athos can serve as a case in point. In the summer of 1941, just months after the German invasion and occupation of Greece, Professor Franz Dölger led an official Nazi expedition to the holy mountain.6 The journey, which focused on historical and theological issues, was officially sponsored by Alfred Rosenberg, Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, and was generously supported by the Wehrmacht. Dölger himself was a distinguished professor of Byzantine studies at the University of Munich from 1931 until his retirement in 1958.

moenchsland_athos1288189333
The expedition report Mönchsland Athos (Athos, Land of Monks), published in 1942

Dölger and his companions, both academic and military, encountered a religious community that was more than willing to embrace Nazism. In fairness to the residents of Mount Athos, we should note that they had good reason to despise Hitler’s nemesis, communism: Stalin was busy confiscating the Russian Orthodox Church’s property and deporting its priests to the gulag, and he had also halted the previously reliable flow of Russian contributions to the monasteries’ upkeep. According to Time Magazine report from 1941, the remarkably naïve monks only knew of Hitler as “a great German king who slays the Bolsheviks and the Jews – a fulfillment of prophecy.” In this, they differed little from the bulk of Catholics and Protestants in Germany and many of the occupied countries. After the Nazi takeover of Greece, the Epistassia, Athos’s four-member executive committee, formally asked Hitler to place the Autonomous Monastic State under his personal protection, a request with which the Führer gladly complied. Mount Athos survived the war nearly untouched, which is more than can be said for the rest of Greece, which lost 11 percent of its population, including virtually all of its Jews.

karyes_-_easter_19411288189481
Wehrmacht soldiers posing with Greek Orthodox monks in Karyes, Athos Peninsula, Easter 1941

In gratitude for his protection, the monks displayed and revered Hitler images, including not only the one described further down but also a portrait hung directly in the center of a wall of paintings in the great reception room of St Panteleimon monastery, directly beneath a portrait of Tsar Nicholas II (see video clip below).

i285697114340412473._szw565h2600_
Hitler in a place of honor at St. Panteleimon Monastery (1942)
i285697114340412531._szw565h2600_
This picture is taken partner after the Second World War. The portrait of Hitler is Replaced by portraits of Queen Frederica (1917 – 1981) and beside her king Paul (1901 – 1964).

The following is my translation of an excerpt from Prof. Dölger’s account of his visit to Mount Athos as printed in the book Mönchsland Athos (Munich: 1942), the official report of his 1941 visit to the holy mountain:

At the monastery of Konstamonitou, at the place of honor in the reception room, we encountered the image of our Führer.  A monk had discovered a picture in an illustrated magazine and created a pencil drawing based on this model. Elsewhere too we could observe how strongly the personality of the Führer and the Greater German Reich impressed itself upon the imagination of the residents of Mount Athos, at least among those who had not entirely turned away from the world. Upon our arrival at several monasteries and, upon our departure from one (Dionisíu), when we sailed out onto the sea in our little ship, we were greeted by the swastika flag. The Führer is regarded by a great many monks as the “High Protector of the Holy Mountain” who will also hold his protecting hand over the Holy Mountain in the reordering of the world.

We had a delightful experience as we photographed a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary. From the point of view of Athos, it represented an immense concession for us to receive permission to photograph the sacred icon, and monks even helped us in our preparations. One old monk who joined us observed these preparations, shaking his head. Turning to us, he said: “If you want to photograph the Panajía [Virgin Mary], then you will have little luck; for the Panajía has never yet allowed herself to be photographed.” – “But it could be,” he added in a trusting and good-natured manner, “that the Panajía may make an exception for you Germans and allow herself to be photographed, because you Germans, after all, are waging a holy war against Bolshevism, the enemy of God.”

*Banishing the opposite sex from the peninsula might sound like a recipe for boredom, but it appears that the monks knew how to keep busy. According to a Time Magazine article in April 1941, “[a]n alarming number of monks have taken to smoking, alcohol, even narcotics. And the immemorial escape from celibacy has threatened to become a fever sickening the whole ‘Great Academy of the Greek Clergy.’ The Greek press has stormed about the kidnapping of male children for the monks of Athos, and motorboats carrying male prostitutes are constantly reported chugging into the monastery harbors.”

Franz Dölger's Diamonitirion
On the recommendation of Georgios Tsolakoglou, 1st Greek Prime Minister of the occupation, Dölger received a special residence permit.

TWO ARTICLES FROM TIME MAGAZINE

MOUNT ATHOS: Failing Light

Monday, April 28, 1941
TIME Magazine

The Stukas swooped across the Aegean skies like dark, dreadful birds, but they dropped no bombs on the monks of Mount Athos. The motorized Nazi hordes rumbled across the Salonikan peninsula, but they did not invade its 40-mile-long eastern cape where the holy and historic Mount towers in misty beauty above monasteries perching like fabulous castles on crags above the sea. Surrounded by flower-scented glens and gorges, veiled with pine and cypress and chestnut, are great Lavra Monastery, Vatopédi, Simöpetra, bastioned Dionysiou (which proudly possesses the brain and right hand of Saint John the Baptist) and many others, each with its fusty library and gilded Byzantine church.

Last week Adolf Hitler gave no hint of what he proposed to do about this great religious prize which was his for the taking—the autonomous ecclesiastical republic of Mount Athos, 1,000-year-old capital of Greek Orthodoxy, governed by a council consisting of one monk from each of its 20 stony retreats.

The 5,000 bearded, black-robed Greek, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Rumanian monks who live on Mount Athos arrived there for many reasons—religion, disappointment in love, political conspiracy, seeking sanctuary against political or criminal punishment. They include several former Greek lunchroom proprietors who fled the clatter of U.S. civilization. They live in two kinds of monasteries: cenobite (communistic) and idiorrhythmic (allowing private property, which reverts to the monastery). Many of them lead a truly monkish life of prayer and Church scholarship, a shabby life without bathing or toothbrushing, with a meatless diet and only brief snatches of sleep, because “sleep inflames the body.” They live on contributions and on the making and selling of wine, farm products, religious paintings and trinkets. Some are so ignorant or unworldly that they have heard only vaguely of Adolf Hitler—”a great German king who slays the Bolsheviks and the Jews—a fulfillment of prophecy.”

But in recent years the world has been altogether too much with Mount Athos to please its pure in heart. For one thing, the world’s sad economy has impoverished the religious life even more than need be. Joseph Stalin has stopped the steady flow of Russian funds into Mount Athos, and war and world depression have sharply cut all other income. The ancient sins of luxury have been increasingly apparent both outside and inside the holy ground. Vigorous young monks are rare. “We need young men today more than ever,” one Athonite has said, “but they prefer to fatten their ephemeral bodies and clothe them in silk shirts and ties.”

On the Mount itself, one of the wealthier monasteries has permitted itself all manner of worldly indulgences—central plumbing, mirrors, electric lights, newspapers, motorboats, wine-pressing machinery (instead of the industrious barefoot method). An alarming number of monks have taken to smoking, alcohol, even narcotics. And the immemorial escape from celibacy has threatened to become a fever sickening the whole “Great Academy of the Greek Clergy.” The Greek press has stormed about the kidnapping of male children for the monks of Athos, and motorboats carrying male prostitutes are constantly reported chugging into the monastery harbors.

Today many Greek laymen regard Mount Athos as a senile, decadent, insufferable vestige of its past. If Adolf Hitler decides to dim this “Lighthouse of the Aegean,” this greatest of world monastic experiments, he may well be doing only what the Greek Government would presently have done itself.

The Tragos ('Magna Carta') of Athos opened for Dölger.
The Tragos (‘Magna Carta’) of Athos opened for Dölger.

GREECE: Flight from Mt. Athos

Monday, July 13, 1942
TIME Magazine

Peter the Athonite came first to Mount Athos in the 9th Century and lived there for 50 years, battling devils and beasts in a cave high above Homer’s wine-dark sea. Then came Euthemius and Joseph, who sought eternal bliss by moving about on their hands and knees eating grass. All this was centuries after Xerxes’ legions invaded Greece, and, of course, centuries before Nazi Panzer divisions.

From the time of Peter the Athonite to Adolf the paper hanger, the great rocky promontory of Athos, jutting into the Aegean like a prong of Poseidon’s three-forked scepter, has been a place of refuge -for men only. No woman has knowingly been allowed to desecrate by her presence the huge cluster of monasteries atop the Holy Mountain, where bearded, black-cowled priests withdraw from worldly pleasures in the spiritual home of the Greek Orthodox Church. Even female cats and dogs and beasts of the field are barred, “so that their mating may not furnish an outlandish spectacle to souls which detest all forms of indecency. . . .”

Last week, from three priests who fled to an even more ancient home of Christian religion, there came the first account of what Europe’s new barbarians had done to the cloistered life of Mount Athos. For some 90 days & nights the priests had navigated nearly 1,000 miles of island-cluttered seas, and at last beached their 15-ft. open boat on the sands near Haifa in Palestine. There they told how ruck-sacked Nazi youths in peacetime had accepted the monasteries’ humble hospitality and returned as soldiers to pillage and defile. Great iron bells that for centuries sounded matins and vespers had been carried away, to be melted down for the Nazi war machine. Priceless icons, illuminated manuscripts handed down from Byzantine emperors, and religious treasures* had been gathered as loot and shipped to Berlin. These things had driven them, sick at heart, from beloved mountain valleys thick with arbutus and carefully laid out for the husbanding of vineyards and olive groves within sight of the slopes of Mt. Olympus and the plains of Troy. At the islands where their boat touched, peasants fed them and gave them shelter.

Greek Orthodox Church officials, believing the perilous voyage of the priests was divinely guided, ordered that their fragile boat be taken overland and placed as a shrine in the waters of the river Jordan, a trumpet’s blow from Jericho.

But German bombs last week struck in Haifa and there was a clash of great armies in the land of Egypt.

Possibly these were omens that the new shrine might soon, in 1942, have no more power to stop warring men than had the words of Him who, some 1,900 years ago, had gone up from the multitude and proclaimed: “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.”

Forced landing of the German plane 57 Juncker at the beach in front of the monastery of Aghios Pavlos
Forced landing of the German plane 57 Juncker at the beach in front of the monastery of Aghios Pavlos

During the occupation, a German plane Juncker damaged 57 landed on the beach in front of the St. Paul’s Monastery. Among the crew of the plane there was also a female soldier. To respect the rule of Avaton, the female German had to stay in an old fisherman’s hut on stilts near the beach of the plane, during the repair time. This cabin was then declared as not belonging to the monastic community. The German therefore have not touched the ground of Mount Athos, the rule of Avaton was respected even by the Germans during the war.

*Most famed of Mount Athos’ religious relics: the camel-hair girdle which legend says the Virgin gave to doubting Thomas; pieces of the True Cross; the skull of St. Basil the Great; the brains of St. John the Baptist; the three gifts of the Magi (gold, frankincense and myrrh).

German officers and soldiers on Mount Athos (1943)
German officers and soldiers on Mount Athos (1943)

NOTES

  1. See: Η επιστολή του Αγίου Όρους προς τον Χίτλερ
  2. The Anonymous Prophecy of 1054 is a manuscript found in the Library of Koutloumousiou Monastery, Mt. Athos.
  3. Archimandrite Neilos Sotiropoulos writes in his book, The Coming Two Edge Sword: “The prophecy texts preserved are found in Northern Epirus, Epirus, and western Macedonia. They were found and are located in the Holy Monastery of Naum, Ochrid. It was found in Northern Epirus by the priest-monk, Archimandrite Neophytos Kalofountis, who served there as a soldier in 1914 after the liberation of Ioannina.
  • The ever-memorable lay-preacher, Demetrios Panagopoulos recorded another copy in his book, Saints and Sages Concerning What Will Happen in the Future. The text is continuous and not divided into verses or enumerated. He mentions that “it is found at the Holy Monastery Kozani.” This copy of the prophecy is obviously by an uneducated writer [i.e. not Panagopoulos, but the prophecy text he used]; it inadvertently has spelling errors and variations in a few words, though without changing the meaning. It was found written on a papyrus. At the end of the text, it bears the timeline of being written in 1503 AD, while in the caption it states 1053 AD.
  • The Old Calendarist Bishop of Kalamata, Gregorios, records another copy of the prophecy text in his book, “What We and Our Children Will See.” It reports that it is found in the Holy Serbian Monastery, Kozani. The text has minimal differences from the previous in words and spelling errors without changing the meaning.
  • Another text is found in a village of the prefecture of Kozani and is also written on papyrus. In 1937, a Gendarme appeared at a village house to collect tax. An old woman, the only inhabitant of the house, told him she had paid the tax. The Gendarme asked for the receipt. The old lady, not knowing letters advised him to search the chest to find it. He emptied all the documents onto the floor. He found the receipt and congratulated the old woman. He also noticed an ancient document of prophecy amongst the papers. He took it, copied it and circulated it in many copies. In 1962, a Macedonian journalist published the text of this prophecy in a pamphlet with still more annotations. A Thessalonian gave me this booklet in 1972.
  • Also, the Hagiorite Monk, Nektarios Katsaros’ small booklet, “Prophecies Concerning Constantinople’s Liberation” also contains this prophecy. I bought this book in 1957 at Karyes, Mount Athos where I went and was tonsured a monk.”
  • Some books state that there is a copy of this prophecy in the Library at the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou, Mount Athos.
  1. The “New European War” is now considered to be a prophecy of World War II as it occurred after the “Great European War” which is considered to be a prophecy of World War I.
  2. Ralph H. Brewster, The 6,000 Beards of Athos, p.
  3. “In the spring of 1941 the Germans invaded and occupied Greece”, Father Maximos said to Bob Simon.
    They marched up the Acropolis, raised the swastika beside the Parthenon and were about to invade. The monks asked for a meeting with Nazi officers who told them to appeal to Hitler himself.
    The monks wrote Hitler a letter. “And in the letter, the monks identified themselves. They said, ‘This is who we are.’ And they asked Hitler to place the Holy Mountain under his personal protection,” Father Maximos said.
    When asked what kind of response they got, Father Maximos said, “It seems that Hitler liked the idea. He accepted the invitation to become the personal protector of the Holy Mountain.”
    Hitler sent a team of German academics to Mount Athos. They took 1,800 pictures of the mountain’s treasures, and it wasn’t because they enjoyed photography – Hitler wanted the monasteries’ riches in Berlin.
    “The professors were sent as an advance team to catalogue the treasures of the Holy Mountain so that a selection of things could be looted”, Father Maximos explained.
    But it didn’t happen that way and not a single item was taken.
    Father Maximos believes they have the Russians to thank for that: by the time the Nazi scholars completed their work, Hitler was bogged down in Russia and wasn’t thinking about icons.
  4. 1 August 1943, a helpful German soldier showing a copy of Signal in Greek to an orthodox resident of the ancient monastic state of Mount Athos.
    1 August 1943, a helpful German soldier showing a copy of Signal in Greek to an orthodox resident of the ancient monastic state of Mount Athos.
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0tYWPPl4qE

The monk who left the Holy Mountain to destroy a statue of Neptune in the Ministry of Education with a sledgehammer! (1976)

250px-Poseidon_Penteskouphia_Louvre_CA452
Poseidon holding a trident. Corinthian plaque, 550-525 BC. From Penteskouphia.

NOTE: The following article is taken from “Time Machine,” July 23, 2015. Poseidon (Greek: Ποσειδῶν) was one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology. His main domain was the ocean, and he is called the “God of the Sea”. He is usually depicted as an older male with curly hair and beard. Poseidon was a major civic god of several cities: in Athens, he was second only to Athena in importance, while in Corinth and many cities of Magna Graecia he was the chief god of the polis.

http://www.mixanitouxronou.gr/o-kalogeros-pou-efige-apo-to-agio-oros-gia-na-katastrepsi-me-variopoula-to-agalma-tou-posidona-sto-ipourgio-pedias-ton-oplise-to-pirino-arthro-mitropoliti-gia-ta-edia-tou-idololatri-theou/

 

 

An unprecedented incident of religious fanaticism made headlines in April 1976.

The protagonist was a monk from Mount Athos, who went to Athens in order to destroy the statue of Poseidon that stood at the entrance of the Ministry of Education.

Poseidon

It all started from an article by the Metropolitan of Florina, Augoustinos Kantiotes, “concerning the genitals of the pagan God and the shame of Athens,” which enraged the monk. In the article, Kantiotis mentioned—among other things—the plaster copy of the Poseidon statue that adorned the entrance to the Ministry of Education. The monk was furious and decided to act. He got a car and traveled from Athos to Athens to eliminate what he believed was the Ministry’s shame.

He invaded the building early in the morning and started hitting the statue with a large sledgehammer. The Ministry officials tried to stop him, but did not manage.

The monk was furiously beating Poseidon shouting: “Down with the idols.” 

The monk broke the statue’s hands and feet. Police officers arrived at the Ministry and arrested him before he could shatter the head. “It was a corruptive idol; disgusting and shameful. Those who set it up in the Ministry of Religious Affairs are not Christians,” the monk said to justify his action. Reporters gathered and submitted questions at the police station where he was led.

“What bothered you most about the Poseidon statue? Perhaps his nakedness? -That too. Why do they have the idol in the ministry? Do they want to restore paganism, as did Julian the Apostate? No, they will not succeed in that.”

The monk was not penitent. Rather, he said to himself: “Oh I did not have the honor to also break its head with the hammer.” The monk even threatened to return to Athens at night with two cases of dynamite and turn Poseidon to ash. According to his plan, he would break the glass and enter the Ministry with the wicks ready for firing. In an emergency, as stated, he would be killed together, like Samuel in Kougki.

The case was brought to justice. People who supported the monk had gathered in court. When the accused asked the chairman what he had to say about the matter, he replied calmly: “I accept. I broke the statue because it was the shame of the city and caused the indignation of Christians.” When they asked him if he sought exemption from the charges, he categorically said no. The court sentenced the monk to prison for eight months, but he appealed and was released.

boyana-temple-sm
St. Nicholas destroys idols, 13th c. fresco

 

Saint George topples the pagan idols (Decani, 14th c.)
Saint George topples the pagan idols; Decani, 14th Century
Saint Abraham of Rostov destroys a statue of pagan god Veles (11th century)
St. Abraham of Rostov destroys a statue of the pagan god Veles (11th century)

 

 

Mount Athos, Homosexuality, Addiction to Heavy Psychotropic Drugs & Suicide (Monk Michael, 2001)

NOTE: The following article, entitled They Take Psychotropic Drugs on Mount Athos, is a Free Press (ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΟΤΥΠΙΑ) Sunday insert magazine “E” (Έψιλον), Issue 524, 22/4/2001. Peter Papavasiliou interviews Monk Michael Haztiantoniou who lived as a monk in the Sinai desert for 11 years (1988-1998) and Mount Athos for 14 years (1973-1988).

Μιχαήλ, Μοναχός

After 14 years in Simonopetra Monastery, the Athonite monk raised his voice in protest about what is happening in the Athonite state. Today, Monk Michael lives alone in hesychia in the mountains of Corinth, in a cell allocated to him by some pious people. He writes his books from this cell. He has published 12 books so far and many of his accusations can be found recorded in them; he denounces “things and wonders” about the Athonite republic from homosexuality to heavy psychotropic drug addiction! http://aretimaurogianni2.blogspot.gr/2013/06/blog-post_6872.html

PP: Do the abbots in the monasteries of Mount Athos display authoritarian behavior?

MM: When they first appeared, these abbots projected themselves as charismatic personalities who had somehow received the mission from God to create a new model of monasticism.1 So, for many people these personalities were expressing hopes and dreams. They endeavoured, they created and built brotherhoods, monasteries, and were very actively involved. However, what all this activity has produced is significant. I can mention a conversation we had with Geronda Paisios on this subject. The basic question that disturbed me was: ‘Why is my generation, on the level of monks, while it presented refinement, culture, and sensitiveness—very positive signs for Geronda Paisios—did not yield spiritual fruitfulness?

Paisios-at-Kelli-Panagouda

PP: Do the abbots use special methods to persuade or to render all the monks conformable?’2

“I think that many Geronta Abbots started out differently and ended up otherwise. It was entirely different when the brotherhood numbered 6 to 7 monks and different when the same Geronda had more monks. In the beginning they organized it patristically and monastically. They had found a tradition on Mount Athos. Later, however, as the brotherhood grew, they started to ‘militarize’ it and treat it like a camp.”3

“Consistency and order had to be kept and a new element appeared which was crucial to the mentality of this organization: the showcase. They were extremely cautious in how they expressed themselves, regardless of how we lived and the things we said amongst ourselves. How will we appear? How will our showcase not be ‘scratched’? How can we ensure that our problems will not be heard about in Thessaloniki?”4

“I was present at the Assembly debate when some Abbot telephoned and said an Iveritis monk (i.e. a monk from Iveron Monastery) was found dead in Thessaloniki. This dead monk was a homosexual and had relations with two Romanians. It didn’t particularly trouble us because such incidents could occur in a large number of monks. But the Abbot whom it offended requested the Holy Community5 publish a paper which would state that this monk had no relationship with the Holy Mountain even though the victim was an Athonite monk for decades.”

“The Holy Community then discussed the matter and said: ‘How would we say this? Anyone would be able to overturn us since he hasn’t been erased from the Monastery…He is a canonical Hagiorite.’ This problem shows that that many Gerondas today have transferred their interest to the showcase.”

Iveron Monastery
Iveron Monastery, Mount Athos

PP: What are the problems behind the showcase? In your books you maintain that a fraction of monks take heavy psychotropic drugs, even by the Abbot’s orders.6

MM: This was also a very great and sad realization for me. It was a painful decision to start disclosing and writing about these things. I did it after 25 years in monasticism though my realizations had occurred many years ago. After publishing certain books that mentioned psychiatric drugs, many monks came forward and assured me that what I write is very mild compared to the realities that are in force on Mount Athos.

PP: You mentioned in one of your books that a pharmacist from Thessaloniki, who was spiritually connected with some monastery on Mount Athos, was put in a difficult position when an Abbot requested boxes of heavy psychotropic drugs from him.7

MM: We say that this monastery is the chief representative of ‘noetic’ prayer (i.e. the continuous repetition of the phrase, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner,’ which leads to illumination); meaning it represents whatever is the most spiritual at this time to dispose Orthodoxy towards contemporary issues.

PP: Which monastery are you referring to, Fr. Michael? In what monastery did this incident with the two boxes of psychiatric drugs occur?

MM: The incident concerns Filotheou Monastery and Geronda Ephraim is the abbot who wanted the psychotropic drugs.8

Geronda Ephraim

PP: One can contradict that half of Greece takes psychiatric drugs, anxiolytics, or whatever else.

MM: I do not tolerate this situation. I wish everyone could improve their psychological and spiritual condition with effort and balance their everyday life. But even more, I cannot tolerate this (i.e. taking psychiatric drugs) from the people who came to occupy themselves with a higher way of life, consequently to overcome their human elements and weaknesses and acquire what we call the angelic life.

PP: Namely, the sober, meek and bland lifestyle of many monks on Mount Athos is due to the influence of milligrams of sedatives?

Bedouin

MM: I’ll make a comparison with the Bedouin when I lived in Sinai for 11 years. I was responsible for some hermitages many kilometers away and I watched them basking in the sun with a wonderful smile because they used hashish. They called them ‘sacred plants’ there. They used hashish in their daily lives like tomatoes. They, too, were very meek, mild, smiling and sweet. Consequently, external behaviors and conduct do not suffice for me.9

PP: Let’s return to the Holy Mountain. You’ve written in your books that the abbot, in order to exert psychosomatic control, imposes “reactionary” monks and those who doubt his words every night to take a strong dose of sedative every night. Is this true?

MM: This isn’t a canona that you described, but it does happen. I asked a monk who made a pilgrimage to Sinai, ‘How did you take a psychotropic drug for the first time?’ He answered me, ‘The epitropos (i.e. the epitropos is the abbot’s replacement) put a bottle on the table and told me, ‘You will take one pill in the morning and one in the evening. Geronda sends this and you must drink it …’ As the young monk told me, that night he did ‘obedience’ and drank the medicine. I asked this monk what percentage of the monastery took psychiatric drugs. He replied, ‘A very large percentage of the monks.’

PP: The young monk spoke to you about large percentages of monks taking psychotropic drugs. Was he referring to his monastery or the Athonite monasteries in general?

MM: He spoke to me about his monastery. Of course, I never imagined that psychiatric drugs would find an application in such a large scale. There was a doctor who had continued in Karyes and had taken it upon himself to arrange the pharmacy in a monastery. He had seen the boxes of psychiatric drugs. Later, this doctor decided to become a monk.

psychotropic

PP: Even after seeing the boxes of psychiatric drugs?

MM: Yes indeed. He even became a monk at this monastery where he arranged the pharmacy.

PP: Which monastery?

MM: It is a famous monastery which has over 50 monks in its ranks.”

PP: Can you be more specific?

MM: No, because I think it becomes more personal empathy. Namely, I know these monks. They will say that Michael attacked us personally. I do not want to but if, for some reason, the Community of Mount Athos invites me, then I will speak about the details. I can speak about these things there. I don’t want to become too specific or, perhaps, the time hasn’t come yet … However, the responsibility for these things is transferred to the Abbot and 2-3 persons of his entourage who impose. There is some responsibility and I would even say legal responsibility. One enters a monastery without taking psychotropic drugs and then after 10 or 15 years he starts taking them—and this in a large percentage. Well, then, if our community was healthy, they would not have tolerated this so simply and mildly.

PP: Are there such incidents of people entering Mount Athos healthy and coming out addicted to soothing substances and sedatives?

st_kia_f

MM: Yes, this happens quite a lot … (quietly and with a sense of shame). Recently, I spoke with a former Athonite monk who told me: ‘I want to find a channel to speak. They tested 30 psychotropic drugs on me. I lived simply and naturally for 15 years. How did I get on the list to become a guinea pig?’

PP: Did you ever see them moving boxes (i.e. of psychotropics) on Mount Athos during the years you lived there as a monk?

MM: No, I didn’t know about these things. I saw the boxes but didn’t know what they contained exactly.

PP: You thought that they were simple drugs…

MM: Yes. For example, a monk had sent me once to buy medicine when I was out. He had given me a list. At the pharmacy, the pharmacist looked me over well and good.

PP: At the pharmacy in Thessaloniki?

MM: Yes. He asked me, ‘Who do you want these drugs for?’ I told him that I wanted them for a monk. He told me, ‘Father, did you know that these drugs are very heavy and we do not dispense them without a prescription?’ Then I thought they didn’t have the drugs I sought and went to another pharmacy where they told me exactly the same things. When I asked what these drugs were that no one could give me, the pharmacist answered, ‘My Father, I cannot give you these drugs without a prescription and without knowing who they are intended because they are very heavy psychotropics.’ Well, I was very irritated with the monk who sent me.

PP: In other conversations, Fr. Michael, you have revealed to me that many Athonite monks frequently visit a psychiatrist. Is this a fact?

MM: The first is in Thessaloniki. He does therapeutic exercise. He knows the mindset of the monks very well and is very familiar with them. Many monks go to him and they always start talking about the uncreated light (i.e., the indication of the Holy Spirit’s presence that surrounds spiritual monks with brightness) and noetic prayer.”

PP: Does this psychiatrist visit Mount Athos as a family physician?

MM: Yes, he also practises on Mount Athos but the monks visit him in Thessaloniki for more comprehensive treatment. There was an incident where a monk jumped from his balcony and they pulled him out there at a seaside monastery. Fortunately, the monk lived…

PP: As long as the incident is in the past, can we disclose it?

MM: And yet it never became known.

Halkidiki_mount_athos

PP: In what monastery did this suicide attempt occur?

MM: Firstly, as the boat goes … However, some specific questions preoccupy me: 1) Why would a monk not be able to leave from a place where he reached a dead end?—because we’re talking about before authoritarianism. 2) If a monk attempted suicide, does the abbot have the right to keep him close by his side? I don’t think so. We know that we all became monks to claim a right, to give rest to our little hearts, to satisfy a spiritual longing, a thirst we have in life. How did these children reach such a tragic point and how did it not become an issue?

PP: Are there many suicide attempts on Mount Athos?10

MM: I know of an incident where a monk had set himself on fire.11

PP: What year was that?

MM: It occurred in 1994 approximately.

PP: Did this happen in a monastery or skete?

MM: In a monastery. Things are much milder in the sketes.”

PP: Who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in Panagia’s Garden?

MM: Two sides are responsible (i.e. he means the abbots and the monks). However, I think the head is implicated more since he is able to sanitize the emergent. For the emergent comes and is delivered to him with an almost absolute confidence. I would like to see cases of some healthy personalities, open-minded, free, to operate without complex, oppression, etc. We have not seen this yet…

PP: The matter of psychotropic drugs has never been raised to the assembly of the Holy Community?

MM: From what I know, no.”

PP: Only the issue of homosexual relations was raised when and if an outbreak occurred.

Gay monk drawing

MM: Many epidemic cases—indeed, some time ago, an old Athonite monk called me UFO and he expected me to be shrewd. There were cliques in Karyes, or in whatever cell, where we met famous monks and they waited for when I would leave so they could manifest more freely. I treated them all so naturally that I confused them. And so one monk asked me, ‘Well, do you not understand anything about what is happening?’ And he continued in the same tone: ‘Did such and such a monk never suspect you? Let me tell you that there is a cassette which has recorded conversations.’ I answered: ‘But I was friends with him for so many years. When did these things happen?’ And he answered: ‘That is why I call you UFO.’ Yes, homosexual issues have been raised at the Assembly, but I no longer believe in this institution to speak honestly, frankly, at a cost. For many years, decades, I saw that the showcase is their priority and I can also say at some point their economy became their priority. Not an economy in ecclesiastical terms, but rather a ‘practical’ economy, namely, the covering up of everything.

Fr. Michael, do you want to compliment/supplement something?

MM: I would like to emphasize that the children today on Mount Athos (i.e. he means the monks) are very good kids. The love, they look at you with clean eyes. I speak for the majority because there are certainly a very small number of monks who have a pure heart. We said the heads share a large portion of the responsibility…

Elder Joseph synodia

NOTES

  1. Monk Michael is referring mainly to the disciples of Elder Joseph the Hesychast—Elders Ephraim, Haralambos and Joseph—who took charge of 6 of the 20 main monasteries on Mount Athos in the 60s and 70s.
  2. In the 60s and 70s, many of the Athonite monks had issue with what they viewed as young upstarts (i.e. Elder Joseph the Hesychast’s disciples) starting a new brand of monasticism. Furthermore, many of the Athonite Fathers believed Elder Joseph and his synodia were deluded. Some of the more vocal Athonite opponents of Geronda Ephraim were St. Paisios the Athonite, St. Porphyrios the the Kapsokalyvite, Monk Moses the Athonite, and Archimandrite Vasileiosof Iveron (then Abbot of the Stavronikita).
  3. Some of Geronda Ephraim’s former monastics—both in Greece and North America—have remarked that the structure and atmosphere in the monastery was very oppressive and like a boot camp. Some have expressed that it was like a prison camp without the physical torture but rather with lots of psychological and emotional abuse.
  4. This “showcase” mentality still prevails in Geronda Ephraim’s North American monasteries. One of the main obediences for all his monastics is: “At all costs, do not scandalize the lay people. I do not want to hear complaints from pilgrims. No matter what, always show a good representation of monasticism to the pilgrims.” This is called “front stage” behaviour; i.e. this is the behaviour they want pilgrims to see, however, it does not represent in actuality the truth of what goes on behind closed doors—“backstage behaviour.” When a pilgrim witnesses an action unbecoming of a monastic, or expresses being scandalized due to something a monastic has done or said, then there will be some very serious consequences for that monastic individual. Sometimes this can also include a serious yelling rebuke in front of the scandalized victim to shame and humiliate the monk and appease the pilgrim. No doubt the entire brotherhood/sisterhood will be summoned for a homily where this monastic will be centered out, rebuked and humiliated. This is also done as a warning to the other monastics and to instill fear. Furthermore, the individual monastic will end up in the Lity at the end of the church services confessing their sin and begging every individual leaving for forgiveness.
  5. Athos is governed by the “Holy Community” (Ιερά Κοινότητα – Iera Koinotita) which consists of the representatives of the 20 Holy Monasteries, having as executive committee the four-membered “Holy Administration” (Ιερά Επιστασία – Iera Epistasia), with the Protos (Πρώτος) being its head. Civil authorities are represented by the Civil Governor, appointed by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose main duty is to supervise the function of the institutions and the public order. The current Civil Governor is Aristos Kasmiroglou.
  6. In St. Anthony’s Monastery, one of the monks was on anti-depressants before he entered the monastery and out of economia, Geronda Ephraim allowed him to continue. There have been unsubstantiated rumors of other monastics on psychiatric drugs, too. A monk at St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) entered the monastery taking Ritalin for his ADHD. Geronda Joseph made him stop his prescription immediately and he hasn’t taken any prescriptions for his condition since. There is a blessing for abbots/abbesses, and their second-in-commands to take things like Lorazepam (or other anxiolytics) when they suffer from severe anxiety or panic attacks—something which is frequent in their line of work. As well, on numerous occasions, Fr. Germanos of St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery in Roscoe, NY, has given homilies about psychiatric and emotional problems being a direct result of a disciple’s disobedience. In these homilies, he has mentioned the fact that many Hagiorites who had been monastics for 15-25 years are suffering from mental illness as a fruit of all the disobediences they had committed. It was unknown if Fr. Germanos was also referring to himself and his own experiences, something the Athonite Fathers do many times when giving cautionary homilies.
  7. Many of Geronda Ephraim’s North American monasteries have a Greek Orthodox doctor, who is also devoted pilgrim. In some cases, a monastery may also have a monastic who is a doctor. In the early days, many of Geronda Ephraim’s monastics did not have any medical insurance. Usually the superior and second-in-command would have private insurance. The monasteries bypassed expensive medical costs by having the loyal and obedient doctor write prescriptions for all their monastics without insurance in the names of those who had insurance. Also, these doctors would also put aside all the free medical samples they received from pharmaceutical companies (if they were medicines the monastics used) and “donate” them to the monasteries. Thus, most monasteries have a large medicine cabinet full of antibiotics, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory drugs, psychotropic drugs (low doses which are said to be useful for pain), muscle relaxants, prescription pain killers, etc.
  8. Interestingly, Geronda Joseph (Ioannis) Voutsas, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY, is from Thessaloniki. He was also a pharmacist and earned his degree at the University of Thessaloniki.
  9. Though the main emphasis in Geronda Ephraim’s monastery is blind obedience and the Jesus Prayer, external behaviour and conduct also has a very serious importance. Essentially, ‘fake it until you make it.’
  10. Fr. Germanos of St. Nektarios Monastery, Rosoce, NY, has stated in homilies that there is a high suicide rate on Mount Athos. The Gerontikon and Synaxarion are filled with many cautionary tales about monastics who have become deluded or fallen into such despair that they attempted suicide. There are also many cautionary tales about those monastics who succeeded in killing themselves.
  11. To understand the psychology behind why people commit suicide via self-immolation, see: http://news.discovery.com/history/religion/self-immolation-the-macabre-mystery-140127.htm

Former Archimandrite Marries Man in Civil Ceremony (Theodore Kalmoukos, 2016)

NOTE: The following article is taken from the National Herald, January 21, 2016. 

John Heropoulos wedding

BOSTON – Former Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America John Heropoulos, who left the holy priesthood almost nine years ago, was married to a man on Saturday January 9. The civil ceremony took place at The Neighborhood Club of Quincy, MA with relatives and friends in attendance.

Heropoulos is very touched by the responses he has received from people.

Among the first who sent best wishes to the newlywed couple were some close friends of John Heropoulos who learned about the wedding on Facebook. Religious Education Director Tony Vrame congratulated them, as did Presbytera Cynthia Paleologos, the  wife of Fr. Constantine Paleologos former priest of St. Spyridon parish in Worchester. She wrote “so happy for you John! Sending love and prayers for health and happiness together.”

Fr. Dean Panagos, the presiding priest of the St. Sophia parish in New London Connecticut who is also the president of the Clergy Association of the Metropolis of Boston wrote on Facebook, “congratulations John”.

Heropoulos was a charismatic and able clergyman with excellent administrative ability. He began his Church service as Deacon to the late Archbishop Iakovos. He then became assistant priest at St. Nicholas parish in Flushing NY, presiding priest at St. Paraskevi in Greenlawn, NY, and presiding priest at St. George in Hartford, CT. He also served as director of the office of Archbishop Spyridon and as chancellor of the Metropolis of Detroit.

He touched the heart of the Greek-American Community when in May of 2003 he donated one of his kidneys to a small boy.

While everything seemed to be going well he informed Archbishop Demetrios that he was leaving the holy priesthood and requested to be defrocked. He went to Boston and worked for six years for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Today he is working in the development office of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral.

In an interview with The National Herald Heropoulos said that he met his partner Richard “six years ago at a social event in Boston.” Richard works at Harvard University.

When asked when he decided to get married he said ,“I am 52 years old. When I was raised all these things were impossible culturally and socially. I would say that we got to know each other like anyone would and as we became more and more committed to each other we thought that the good and loving and responsible thing to do would be to get married. The state of Massachusetts and the Supreme Court made their rulings and these things and became easier.”

Asked how he felt about this new aspect and dimension of his life and being married to a man, he said “I would say that it is another beautiful aspect of love and companionship that I was able to experience. I experienced love as a priest in human relationships in beautiful ways, but as a married man it is a new dimension of love and it drives away the loneliness.”

TNH asked whether he was attracted to men all of his life or discovered those feelings recently, Heropoulos said, “a gay person is born gay. It is not something that you chose. I was born gay and I was trying to be as good as I could be in my life. As a clergyman I became lonely and so I decided to seek companionship.”

He also said “I told my entire family and many friends years ago that I was gay and nobody was surprised. Everybody – my father, my mother, my dear friends, my family, were accepting and supportive,” and he added “everybody was thrilled that I found somebody to be in love with and to be married to.”

This far, nobody has sent him any negative messages or criticism for getting married to a man, he said.

TNH asked him how he reconciled his past self as a priest, as an Archimandrite, as a official of the Greek Orthodox Church having served in high positions in the Archdiocese, and being well respected, with the new aspect of his life which theologically, ecclesiastically, and spiritually is not an acceptable situation. Heropoulos said “For me, in my service as a priest the issue was to be a celibate priest that was the key issue, to be faithful to the calling to be a celibate priest and then to try to be the best priest that I could be.”

“Are you saying that when you were a celibate priest you didn’t engage in gay sexual activities,” TNH asked. “I was faithful to my vow of celibacy,” he replied.

“Did you experience constant pressure? Were you looking to escape, to liberate yourself from that situation,” he was asked.

“I don’t think it was a matter of escape or liberation. I think that I dearly loved the priesthood and so I became a priest, and I did my very best and I was very faithful to my vows. When I believed that it was the best thing for me personally, spiritually, then I decided it was time to leave,” he said.

Asked if he is concerned that some in the Greek-American Community would be scandalized, he said “I left the Church respectfully. Whether someone agrees or not that ultimately ones has the freedom to make that decision, there is nothing I can do about that.”

Heropoulos revealed to TNH that he goes on Sundays and worships in an Orthodox church and that he receives Holy Communion. He said, “yes of course I go to an Orthodox church and yes I receive Holy Communion.”

To the final question of whether he believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman, Heropoulos, said “I don’t have any comment on that.”

John Heropoulos

Also see:

Fr. John Heropoulos Named Chancellor of Diocese of Detroit (1998) http://www.goarch.org/news/goa.news534

Father John Heropoulos gives 16 year old boy a second chance to life: Donates His Kidney to Young Boy  (2003) http://www.greeknewsonline.com/changing-peoples-lives/

Greek Parish Has Much To Celebrate: New Priest Gets Rave Reviews (2004) http://www.helleniccomserve.com/greek_parish.html

Fr. Heropoulos Leaves Priesthood (2008) http://www.archbishopspyridon.gr/spyridon_2008/nh_heropoulos2_31may08.html

John is also mentioned in this book (pp. 54-56) https://books.google.com/books?id=xnZagkLEjd8C&source=gbs_navlinks_s

 

Greek Orthodox priest’s weird sex fetishes caught on video (Isabel Vincent, 2015)

The NY Post
The NY Post”s front page referring to a kinky sex tape Fr. George & Ethel made.

NOTE: This article is taken from the Australian newspaper, The Courier Mail, October 4, 2015. 

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has suspended Fr. George Passias after an extra-marital affair came to light with a woman from his parish. That affair, which has allegedly been going on for years, resulted in the pregnancy of the woman.

holy-mon-st_spyrdn8a

It should be noted that Fr. George Passias is a long-time spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim of Arizona. When he was Chancellor of the Archdiocese (during Archbishop Spyridon’s reign), he helped Geronda Ephraim get blessings to build 8 new monasteries. He provided the monasteries with inside information on the bishops, priests, etc. who were opposed to the monasteries, the things they said about the monasteries, as well as confidential information from the Archdiocese. He was once nicknamed “Geronda’s eyes and ears inside the Archdiocese.”

In 1997, he aided Geronda Joseph Voutsas and his brotherhood so they could leave Canada undetected by Metropolitan Sotirios and reside at St. Anthony’s Monastery until they bought new property in the States.

Now, the article:

Unorthodox relationship: Fr. George Passias & Ethel Bouzalas.
Unorthodox relationship: Fr. George Passias & Ethel Bouzalas.

A HIGH-RANKING Greek Orthodox priest starred in kinky sex tapes with his much-younger parish-school principal and was forced to resign after the affair — which he’d denied for years — was confirmed by church elders.

Father George Passias, the married 67-year-old pastor of St. Spyridon Church in Manhattan, even impregnated his married lover, 45-year-old Ethel Bouzalas, according to sources.

Passias was once the chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, in charge of all of the religion’s US priests, reports the New York Post.

An adherent to a fundamentalist faction of Greek Orthodoxy led by a controversial cleric in Arizona, he took the helm of St. Spyridon nine years ago — and immediately ordered female worshippers to cover their heads during confession.

But there was no such nod to modesty in their shocking sex videos. In one scene, the bearded cleric, wearing only a white T-shirt, watches his long-haired brunette lover plant her G-string clad bottom on a piece of banana bread wrapped in cling wrap.

Mrs Bouzalas, wearing stiletto heels, oddly wiggles on the loaf until it is flattened — a fetish known as “cake crush” or “cake sitting”.

Fr. George Passias watches as Ethel Bouzalas crushes cake as part of a fetish act.
Fr. George Passias watches as Ethel Bouzalas crushes cake as part of a fetish act.

In another video clip, the pretty Peruvian rubs her feet on the priest’s face as they lie under a mirrored ceiling and she records his ecstasy at the encounter. In another tape, the priest performs oral sex on his lover while she is still clad in sheer pantyhose.

The videos and photos of the pair were provided anonymously to The Post last week with a letter saying they were downloaded off a computer in Passias’s church office. The sender wrote that a private investigator had been hired to tail the couple to their rendezvous in motels in New Jersey and upstate New York.

The scandal blew up in early September when Tom Bouzalas, Ethel Bouzalas’s husband, emailed Bishop Andonios Paropoulos, the chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States, and disclosed the affair, the bishop told The Post.

The bishop said that both Fr Passias and Ethel Bouzalas then came to see him and that Fr Passias was suspended on September 16 “as per the sexual-misconduct policy of the archdiocese”.

Bishop Andonios said he had not seen the sex tapes but “learned of their existence during our meetings with both parties”.

 Another sex tape involves Ethel Bouzalas rubbing her feet on Father George Passias’s face.
Another sex tape involves Ethel Bouzalas rubbing her feet on Father George Passias’s face.

After a weeks-long absence from the pulpit, Fr Passias told his St. Spyridon flock in an email last week that he was leaving for “personal and health reasons”, and confessed to “multitudinous sins and shortcomings”.

“I will now fade out of this world for a considerable time according to God’s will,” he wrote. “He has chosen for me … that I should retire and follow the way of silence, prayer, fasting, and ­utter devotion to our Lord.

“Please do not ask where I am going and where I will be. Then it would not be possible for me to fulfil what is my lot.”

He asked his parishioners to pray for him and his wife. He has four grown children. Mrs Bouzalas has three kids.

 ‘She’s a goddaughter to me’

In 2013, The Post broke the story about the unorthodox relationship between Fr Passias and Mrs Bouzalas and alleged fiscal wrongdoing at the church, which has nearly 200 families and was established in 1931 when the neighbourhood was a Greek stronghold.

When Fr Passias took the helm of the Wadsworth Avenue church in 2006, Mrs Bouzalas came with him as his assistant. He called her his “spiritual goddaughter,” and they arrived and left together every day. A church handyman said he once saw her sitting on the priest’s lap.

Mrs Bouzalas told parishioners that she converted to the Greek Orthodox faith and that Fr Passias baptised her while she wore a bikini. The conversion apparently came before she was to marry her husband, a follower of the faith.

Greek Orthodoxy has 24 million followers worldwide. The seat of the Christian church is in Istanbul, Turkey, presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Priests can only be men but are allowed to marry.

With his flowing black robes and oversized cross around his neck, Fr Passias cut an imposing and authoritative figure. Mrs Bouzalas, meanwhile, favoured short skirts and high heels.

Mrs Bouzalas, who had no education credentials, was soon promoted to be the volunteer principal of the St. Spyridon Parochial School, which serves kindergarten to eighth grade and has a taxpayer-funded pre-kindergarten program. She also became church treasurer and a signatory on bank accounts.

In addition to imposing the conservative rules, Fr Passias ruffled longtime congregants who said he removed controls over church spending and questioned why money was being poured into repairs at the school.

Misconduct ... Fr. George Passias, who has now retired, is pictured here giving a sermon.
Misconduct … Fr. George Passias, who has now retired, is pictured here giving a sermon.

Management of four church-owned apartment buildings was given over to a company tied to Alma Bank, which also provided cash and mortgage refinancing. Renovations of the buildings was then done by two firms tied to principals at Alma Bank.

In 2013, Fr Passias told The Post the allegations were cooked up by a group of “evil-minded people” — parishioners who wanted him gone.

They have been saying I’m having a private affair with her,” he said. “She is a goddaughter to me. That’s it.”

Steve Papadatos, the Parish Council president, at the time called the allegations against Fr Passias “lies”, then blasted The Post for publishing a story that he said was “replete with slander” and innuendo. He called the church “eternally grateful” to the priest and Bouzalas, according to The National Herald, a newspaper that covers the Greek community.

Mr Papadatos last week said that he wouldn’t comment on the scandal, but that he stood by Fr Passias and Mrs Bouzalas and wanted people to pray for them.

The bishop said that the misconduct was brought before a “Spiritual Court of the First Degree” last week and that a council of church leaders — including the head of Greek Orthodoxy in the United States — will review the findings. Any punishment, including possible defrocking, will be decided in Istanbul.

St Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, New York
St Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, New York

Church to investigate

Asked why the church had ignored the longtime allegations of the affair, the bishop said, “Lacking any concrete evidence of an affair, there was no responsible way the church could take any further action.”

He said an audit a few years ago found no misuse of funds, but another investigation would take place “to assure that ­between that time and now, nothing has changed”.

Mrs Bouzalas packed up her school office last week. A moving van carted off a desk, filing cabinet, table and shopping bags with her belongings. A new principal has been assigned to the school.

Her husband refused to comment on the affair or the pregnancy but said the couple was still together. He confirmed he knew of the sex tapes.

Fr Passias, in his farewell note to parishioners, said he was following the direction of “my spiritual father Geronda Ephraim”. Ephraim presides over St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox monastery in Florence, Ariz. The family of a young man who lived there and committed suicide in 2012 contends the death was the result of “six years of physical and psychological abuse” at the monastery.

Fr. George Passias & E. Bouzalas leaving St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, NY.
Fr. George Passias & E. Bouzalas leaving St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, NY.

END NOTE:

When close spiritual children of Geronda Ephraim fall into scandal, especially if they hold any rank or prestige in the community, the monasteries usually give an Ephraim-centric explanation and justification. The Ephraim-centric explanation is always, “The devil is trying to hurt Geronda Ephraim through his spiritual children” (usually via betrayal, scandal, etc.). Thus, it’s never really about the struggle and hardships of the individual but rather their fall or shortcomings are weapons the devil uses to target Geronda Ephraim. 

When the individual is regarded as holy or as some esteem in the Greek community, the monastery’s simple answer is usually, “No one is infallible. Even saints on their deathbed have lost their souls due to lapsing into pride. Only Christ is infallible. Nothing is concrete until you’ve actually passed the toll-houses and are saved. Saints have even lost their souls on the last rung of the ladder.”

Of course, when Geronda Ephraim’s spiritual children have reputations and are “famous,” such asStylianos KementzetzidisElder Ephraim DikaiosFr. George Passias, etc.then the “deeper,” “spiritual” explanation of their fall becomes Ephraim-centric: “The demons used these people to hurt and sadden Geronda Ephraim.” 

In this case, because Fr. George helped Geronda Ephraim so much in the early years and was instrumental in the establishment of so many monasteries in America, sharing inside information so Geronda Ephraim would be aware of “what was going on behind the scenes in the Archdiocese,” etc., the devil became jealous and resented him. Thus, he wanted to make Fr. George fall for two reasons:

1) To hurt and sadden Geronda Ephraim.

2) To scandalize the Greek community and make people fall from the faith (since so many Greek Orthodox regarded Fr. George as pious and holy).

Fr. George & Family

After his suspension, Fr. George sent an email to his “spiritual children” announcing his retirement. The complete email that Fr. George Passias sent to numerous followers is below:

My Beloved Spiritual Children in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Today I share with you a very difficult and trying period in my priestly life.

The time has come for me to resign from the active ministry for personal and health reasons. Now I will  dedicate myself to the repentance that I have tried to preach and share on behalf of our Lord.  At the direction of my spiritual father Geronda Ephraim, I will now fade out of this world for a considerable time according to God’s will. He has chosen for me according to my multitudinous sins and shortcomings, that I should retire and follow the way of silence, prayer, fasting, and utter devotion to our Lord.  Please do not ask where I am going and where I will be.  Then it would not be possible for me to fulfill what is my lot.

It is immeasurably difficult for me to direct you to seek through prayer and vigilance, another spiritual father who will be able to address your needs with love, truth, and conviction for the betterment of your souls.  God will provide.  But you must also do the due diligence by seeking another Father, and then after prayer, choosing him as your spiritual guide and father. Think not that I will forget you!  Never! I have already entered your names to be commemorated every day in the Holy Liturgy forever!

I am very grateful to the Lord for granting me to be a spiritual father to you, and have tried to do the best that I could to do in that role making myself as available as time and health permitted.

I will always love you through prayer and in my heart together with your family.
Please pray for me and Presvytera Mary, and my family I implore you.

In His Abiding Love,

+Father George G. Passias

New Controversy Surrounds Alleged ‘Jesus Family Tomb’ (Tia Ghose, 2015)

NOTE: Archaeology is a science that is viewed cautiously and, in some cases, apprehensively, by more traditional Orthodox Christians. Because Scriptures are viewed as God-inspired and true, anything that contradicts them is usually dismissed as false or demonic. There are varying views in the monasteries under Geronda Ephraim. A common view is, “We don’t need western scholars to interpret our Scriptures, we have the God-bearing Fathers.” More generally, there is a circular reasoning argument that exists: When science backs or supports something mentioned in Scriptures or the Fathers, this is used as a proof or validation of orthodoxy. When something contradicts, it is wrong. When it comes to archaeology, if it is a matter of objects dated to the right time period, it is used as validation.  If the dating disagrees, then carbon dating methods are criticized as an inaccurate science, or, “The Bible isn’t meant to be read as a scientifically or historically accurate book.” There are also many other “arguments” used–which lack any basis or evidence–to “validate” the inaccuracies contained within Scriptures and the writings of the Orthodox Church Fathers. This article is taken from Live Science, April 09, 2015:

A new piece of evidence is reigniting controversy over the potential bones of Jesus of Nazareth.

A tomb in a suburb of Jerusalem excavated in 1980 contains bone boxes with names of some of Jesus' family members. Some historians believe this tomb may have contained the bones of Jesus of Nazareth, though others are skeptical. Here, an ossuary from the Talpiot tomb. Many believe the inscription reads "Yeshua son of Yehosef," or "Jesus son of Joseph."
A tomb in a suburb of Jerusalem excavated in 1980 contains bone boxes with names of some of Jesus’ family members. Some historians believe this tomb may have contained the bones of Jesus of Nazareth, though others are skeptical. Here, an ossuary from the Talpiot tomb. Many believe the inscription reads “Yeshua son of Yehosef,” or “Jesus son of Joseph.”

A bone box inscribed with the phrase “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” is potentially linked to a tomb in Talpiot, Israel, where the bones of people with the names of Jesus’ family members are buried, according to a new chemical analysis. Aryeh Shimron, the geologist who conducted the study, claims that because it is so unlikely that this group of biblical names would be found together by chance, the new results suggest the tomb once held the bones of Jesus. Historians place Jesus’ birth at some time before 4 B.C. in Nazareth, a small village in Galilee.

“If this is correct, that strengthens the case for the Talpiot or Jesus Family Tomb being indeed the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth,” said Shimron, a retired geologist who has studied several archaeological sites in Israel.

If true, the idea that Jesus was buried on Earth would undermine one of the central tenets of Christianity — that Jesus was physically resurrected and rose bodily to heaven after his crucifixion.

But many historians are skeptical. They say the names on the bone boxes (inside the Talpiot tomb) don’t all match with those of Jesus’ family. In addition, the current research has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, the experts say. [See Photos of the Controversial Bone Boxes]

Family of Jesus

In the time of Jesus, people buried the dead initially in a shroud, but once the flesh had rotted away, they often took the remaining bones and collected them in a small limestone box, called an ossuary, said Mark Goodacre, a New Testament and Christian origins scholar at Duke University in North Carolina who was not involved in the current study. [See Images of the Jonah Ossuary]

One of these bone boxes, the James Ossuary, made headlines in 2002, when it was first revealed. The first-century box is inscribed with Aramaic text that translates to “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” If it’s authentic, the ancient artifact could potentially be the only known relic from the family of Jesus of Nazareth.

The James Ossuary, which was held by a private collector since 1976, contains the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." New evidence suggests the bone box came from a tomb where other bone boxes with family names of Jesus of Nazareth are found.
The James Ossuary, which was held by a private collector since 1976, contains the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” New evidence suggests the bone box came from a tomb where other bone boxes with family names of Jesus of Nazareth are found.

But in 2003, the Israel Antiquities Authority argued that the “brother of Jesus” text was forged, and the collector, Oded Golan, was later tried for fraud. After seven years, an Israeli judge concluded that Golan was not guilty of forgery, in part because Golan produced a photograph of the box sitting on his shelf in 1976, and would therefore have not had an incentive to forge the inscription many years before he went public with the discovery.

Tomb raiders

In 1980, another group of researchers unearthed a first-century tomb in Talpiot, a suburb of Jerusalem. The tomb was flooded with a reddish soil called rendzina, and buried in this soil were 10 boxes, six of which were inscribed with names such as Jesus, Mary, Judah, Joseph and Yose. [Photos: 1st-Century House from Jesus’ Hometown]

The house seen here is one of two houses in Nazareth that date to the first century AD. Research reveals that people in the Middle Ages believed that Jesus grew up in this home.
The house seen here is one of two houses in Nazareth that date to the first century AD. Research reveals that people in the Middle Ages believed that Jesus grew up in this home.

The tomb came into the public spotlight with the 2007 documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” written by Israeli journalist and filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, and produced by “Titanic” producer James Cameron. In recent years, Jacobovici has put forward the theory that the James Ossuary came from the Talpiot tomb — and that the tomb was the final resting place of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. But most archaeologists were skeptical of that claim, Goodacre said.

In the new study, Shimron took scrapings from several places on the James Ossuary and the Talpiot tomb ossuaries. He then compared the traces of chemicals — such as aluminum, magnesium, iron and potassium — from those boxes with about 30 to 40 randomly chosen ossuaries collected by the Israel Antiquities Authority. (Some bones were analyzed for DNA but could not be studied thoroughly because they were quickly reburied after excavation, as Jewish law forbids disturbing Jewish burials, Shimron said.)

Shimron found that the chemical signatures from the James Ossuary matched those from the Talpiot bone boxes.

“The flooding of [the] tomb was caused by this earthquake which hit Jerusalem in [A.D.] 363,” Shimron told Live Science. “That soil and mud that flooded the tomb also buried the ossuaries.”

Because both of the boxes contain chemical signatures associated with this soil, the findings suggest the James Ossuary originally came from the Talpiot tomb, Shimron said.

What’s in a name?

If true, the new findings could strengthen the case for the Talpiot tomb containing the bones of Jesus of Nazareth. In this interpretation,  after Joseph of Arimathea initially buried Jesus in an empty tomb, his body may have later been laid to rest in this family plot, said James Tabor, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who has worked in the past with Jacobovici, who financed the current research. [8 Alleged Relics of Jesus]

Altogether, ten bone boxes were unearthed during the 1980 excavations of the Talpiot tomb, though one mysteriously disappeared. Six of those boxes have inscriptions, many with names that match those of Jesus' family members. However, critics say that not all the names are a match. Here, some of the boxes from the Jesus family tomb.
Altogether, ten bone boxes were unearthed during the 1980 excavations of the Talpiot tomb, though one mysteriously disappeared. Six of those boxes have inscriptions, many with names that match those of Jesus’ family members. However, critics say that not all the names are a match. Here, some of the boxes from the Jesus family tomb.

The trouble is proving that the tomb belongs to Jesus of Nazareth and his family, rather than a completely different Jesus. The argument for the former theory rests on statistics — namely, that it would be incredibly unlikely that names associated with Jesus of Nazareth’s family would occur by chance for another unrelated Jesus, according to Jacobovici. Adding in another ossuary with names associated with Jesus — namely, the James Ossuary — would potentially buttress that statistical case.

But many experts say that statistical case doesn’t hold up. For one, almost all the names in the tomb were common at the time. In addition, some of the inscriptions, such as the name for Jesus, are hard to read, said Robert Cargill, a classics and religious studies professor at the University of Iowa in Ames, who was not involved in the study.

What’s more, some of the names found on ossuaries from the tomb have no historical precedent — such as “Judah, son of Jesus.”

“There’s no evidence at all that Jesus had a son at all, let alone a son called Judah,” Goodacre said.

One of the boxes is inscribed with what may be “Mariamne” or, alternatively, “Mary and Mara,” Goodacre added. While Jacobovici argues that the name corresponds to one of Jesus’ followers, Mary Magdalene, early Christians didn’t call Mary Magdalene “Mariamne” — rather, she was just called Mariam or Marya, Goodacre said.

When those inconsistencies are also considered, the statistical case for the names matching those of Jesus’ family falls apart, Cargill said.

Jacobovici disagrees with their interpretation of the statistics.

“The fact is that this tomb has more evidence going for it now than probably any other archaeological artifact on the planet. The names are not common and some of the versions of the names are unique e.g., ‘Yose’ (which corresponds to one of the brothers of Jesus),” Jacobovici said in an email to Live Science.

Debate heats up

Another inconsistency comes in the timing of the discoveries. The James Ossuary was in a collector’s hands by 1976, but the tomb wasn’t discovered until 1980, Cargill said.

The A.D. 363 earthquake opened up the tomb centuries ago, so it’s possible that the box was closer to the entrance of the tomb and was partly visible from the surface, whereas the other boxes were still submerged and hidden. Someone could have seen it and quickly absconded with it, without having discovered the other tombs, Tabor said.

In addition, Tabor argues that, as a Jewish man of his day, Jesus of Nazareth was more likely to be married with kids, rather than celibate. So the mention of Jesus’ son Judah is not problematic for their theory, even if Judah were never mentioned in historical documents, Tabor added.

The James ossuary was first revealed to the public in 2002, but the Israel Antiquities Authority later said that the latter part of the inscription - "brother of Jesus," was a forgery. After a seven-year trial, a judge cleared the Oded Golan, who owned the box, of forgery. Now, a new geological analysis says it has the same chemical signature as ossuaries from the Talpiot tomb.
The James ossuary was first revealed to the public in 2002, but the Israel Antiquities Authority later said that the latter part of the inscription – “brother of Jesus,” was a forgery. After a seven-year trial, a judge cleared the Oded Golan, who owned the box, of forgery. Now, a new geological analysis says it has the same chemical signature as ossuaries from the Talpiot tomb.

Theological questions

The new findings are incredibly controversial because they deal with one of the most polarizing figures in history — Jesus of Nazareth. Traditional Christians believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead and ascended to heaven after he was crucified and returned to walk on Earth, Tabor said.

“If you find the bones of Jesus, the resurrection is off,” Tabor told Live Science. Conservative Christians “see it as an attack on Christianity and also a refutation of the faith of Christianity.”

But Goodacre and Cargill said theological questions don’t factor into their skepticism. Rather, the real issue is that the scientific standards have not been met, Cargill said.

Ossuaries, or bone boxes, were fairly common during the time of Jesus. Families would typically bury people in a linen shroud, and once the flesh had rotted away, the bones would be collected and placed in a limestone or chalk box. Here, the ossuary thought to hold the bones of Caiaphas family. According to the New Testament, Caiaphas was a Jewish high priest who masterminded the plot to kill Jesus.
Ossuaries, or bone boxes, were fairly common during the time of Jesus. Families would typically bury people in a linen shroud, and once the flesh had rotted away, the bones would be collected and placed in a limestone or chalk box. Here, the ossuary thought to hold the bones of Caiaphas family. According to the New Testament, Caiaphas was a Jewish high priest who masterminded the plot to kill Jesus.

Roman Crucifixion Methods Reveal the History of Crucifixion (Biblical Archaeological Society, 2011)

NOTE: This article is taken from The Bible History Daily, 07/17/2011:

The practice of crucifixion in antiquity was brought to life as never before when the heel bones of a young man named Yehohanan were found in a Jerusalem tomb, pierced by an iron nail. The discovery shed new light on Roman crucifixion methods and began to rewrite the history of crucifixion in antiquity. Photo: ©Erich Lessing
The practice of crucifixion in antiquity was brought to life as never before when the heel bones of a young man named Yehohanan were found in a Jerusalem tomb, pierced by an iron nail. The discovery shed new light on Roman crucifixion methods and began to rewrite the history of crucifixion in antiquity. Photo: ©Erich Lessing

Crucifixion in Antiquity

What do we know about the history of crucifixion? In the following article, “New Analysis of the Crucified Man,” Hershel Shanks looks at evidence of Roman crucifixion methods as analyzed from the remains found in Jerusalem of a young man crucified in the first century A.D. The remains included a heel bone pierced by a large nail, giving archaeologists, osteologists and anthropologists evidence of crucifixion in antiquity.

Crucifixion in antiquity was a gruesome execution, not really understood until a skeletal discovery in the 1980s that gave new insight into the history of crucifixion. Photo: Courtesy Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 35, No. 1 (1985)
Crucifixion in antiquity was a gruesome execution, not really understood until a skeletal discovery in the 1980s that gave new insight into the history of crucifixion. Photo: Courtesy Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 35, No. 1 (1985)

What do these bones tell us about the history of crucifixion? The excavator of the crucified man, Vassilios Tzaferis, followed the analysis of Nico Haas of Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem suggesting Roman crucifixion methods: a contorted position: arms nailed to the crossbeam; legs bent, twisted to one side, and held in place by a single nail that passed through a wooden plaque, through both left and right heel bones, and then into the upright of the cross.

However, when Joseph Zias and Eliezer Sekeles reexamined the remains, looking for evidence of Roman crucifixion methods, they found no evidence that nails had penetrated the victim’s arms; moreover, the nail in the foot was not long enough to have penetrated the plaque, both feet, and the cross. And, indeed, what were previously thought to be fragments of two heel bones through which the nail passed were shown to be fragments of only one heel bone and a long bone. On the basis of this evidence, Zias and Sekeles suggest that the man’s legs straddled the cross and that his arms were tied to the crossbeam with ropes, signifying the method of crucifixion in antiquity.

Literary sources giving insight into the history of crucifixion indicate that Roman crucifixion methods had the condemned person carry to the execution site only the crossbar. Wood was scarce and the vertical pole was kept stationary and used repeatedly. Below, in “New Analysis of the Crucified Man,” Hershel Shanks concludes that crucifixion in antiquity involved death by asphyxiation, not death by nail piercing.

Scholars’ Corner: New Analysis of the Crucified Man

By Hershel Shanks

Drawing of the contorted crucifixion position proposed by Vassilios Tzaferis, based on the analysis of Nico Haas, which has since been challenged by Joseph Zias and Eliezer Sekeles. For full caption, see drawing from Israel Exploration Journal 35:1. Photo: Courtesy Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 20, No. 1–2 (1970)
Drawing of the contorted crucifixion position proposed by Vassilios Tzaferis, based on the analysis of Nico Haas, which has since been challenged by Joseph Zias and Eliezer Sekeles. For full caption, see drawing from Israel Exploration Journal 35:1. Photo: Courtesy Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 20, No. 1–2 (1970)

In our January/February 1985 issue, we published an article about the only remains of a crucified man to be recovered from antiquity (“Crucifixion—The Archaeological Evidence,BAR, January/February 1985). Vassilios Tzaferis, the author of the article and the excavator of the crucified man, based much of his analysis of the victim’s position on the cross and other aspects of the method of crucifixion on the work of a medical team from Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School headed by Nico Haas, who had analyzed the crucified man’s bones. In a recent article in the Israel Exploration Journal, however, Joseph Zias, an anthropologist with the Israel Department of Antiquities, and Eliezer Sekeles of Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem question many of Haas’s conclusions concerning the bones of the crucified man.a The questions Zias and Sekeles raise affect many of the conclusions about the man’s position during crucifixion.

According to Haas, the nail in the crucified man penetrated both his right and left heel bones, piercing the right heel bone (calcaneum) first, then the left. Haas found a fragment of bone attached to the right heel that he thought was part of the left heel bone (sustentaculum tali). If Haas’s analysis is correct, the two heel bones must have been penetrated by the same nail, and the victim’s legs must have been in a closed position on the cross.

But according to the new analysis of the bones just published in the Israel Exploration Journal, the bone fragment Haas identified as part of the left heel bone was incorrectly identified. “The shape and structure of this bony fragment is of a long bone; it cannot therefore be the left [heel bone],” say the most recent investigators. Their conclusions are confirmed by x-rays, which reveal the varying density, structure and direction of the bones.

Haas also incorrectly assumed that the nail is seven inches (17–18 cm) long. In fact, the total length of the nail from head to tip is only 4.5 inches (11.5 cm). A wooden plaque less than an inch thick (2 cm) had been punctured by the nail before it passed through the right heel bone. After exiting from the bone, the nail penetrated the cross itself and then bent, probably because it hit a knot. As the new investigators observe, given the length of the nail, “There simply was not enough room for both heel bones and a two centimeter wooden plaque to have been pierced by the nail and affixed to the vertical shaft of the cross. … The nail was sufficient for affixing only one heel bone to the cross.”

In short, only the right heel bone was penetrated—laterally, or sidewise—by the nail. Accordingly, the victim’s position on the cross must have been different from that portrayed by Haas.

The new investigators also dispute Haas’s conclusion that a scratch on the bone of the right forearm (radius) of the victim, just above the wrist, represents the penetration of a nail between the two bones of the forearm. According to Zias and Sekeles, such scratches and indentations are commonly found on ancient skeletal material, including on the right leg bone (fibula) of this man. Such scratches and indentations have nothing to do with crucifixion.

How then was the crucified man attached to the cross?

As the new investigators observe:

“The literary sources for the Roman period contain numerous descriptions of crucifixion but few exact details as to how the condemned were affixed to the cross. Unfortunately, the direct physical evidence here is also limited to one right calcaneum (heel bone) pierced by an 11.5 cm iron nail with traces of wood at both ends.”

According to the literary sources, those condemned to crucifixion never carried the complete cross, despite the common belief to the contrary and despite the many modern reenactments of Jesus’ walk to Golgotha. Instead, only the crossbar was carried, while the upright was set in a permanent place where it was used for subsequent executions. As the first-century Jewish historian Josephus noted, wood was so scarce in Jerusalem during the first century A.D. that the Romans were forced to travel ten miles from Jerusalem to secure timber for their siege machinery.

According to Zias and Sekeles:

“One can reasonably assume that the scarcity of wood may have been expressed in the economics of crucifixion in that the crossbar as well as the upright would be used repeatedly. Thus, the lack of traumatic injury to the forearm and metacarpals of the hand seems to suggest that the arms of the condemned were tied rather than nailed to the cross. There is ample literary and artistic evidence for the use of ropes rather than nails to secure the condemned to the cross.”

According to Zias and Sekeles, the victim’s legs straddled the vertical shaft of the cross, one leg on either side, with the nails penetrating the heel bones. The plaque or plate under the head of the nail, they say, was intended to secure the nail and prevent the condemned man from pulling his feet free.

As Haas correctly suggested, the nail probably hit a knot which bent the nail. However, as Zias and Sekeles reconstruct the removal of the dead man from the cross:

“Once the body was removed from the cross, albeit with some difficulty in removing the right leg, the condemned man’s family would now find it impossible to remove the bent nail without completely destroying the heel bone. This reluctance to inflict further damage to the heel led [to his burial with the nail still in his bone, and this in turn led] to the eventual discovery of the crucifixion.”

Whether the victim’s arms were tied, rather than nailed to the cross is irrelevant to the manner of his dying. As Zias and Sekeles point out:

“Death by crucifixion was the result of the manner in which the condemned man hung from the cross and not the traumatic injury caused by nailing. Hanging from the cross resulted in a painful process of asphyxiation, in which the two sets of muscles used for breathing, the intercostal [chest] muscles and the diaphragm, became progressively weakened. In time, the condemned man expired, due to the inability to continue breathing properly.”
New Analysis of the Crucified Man” by Hershel Shanks first appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 1985.
Notes

  1. “The Crucified Man from Giv‘at ha-Mivtar: A Reappraisal,” Israel Exploration Journal Vol. 35, No. 1 (1985), pp. 22–27.

Zias and Sekeles also note a number of other errors in Haas’s report:

  1. The victim’s legs were not broken as a final coup de grâce. The break so identified by Haas was postmortem.
  2. The victim did not have a cleft palate. The upper right canine was not missing, despite Haas’s report to the contrary.
  3. The wood from which the plaque under the nail head was made was olive wood, not acacia or pistacia, as Hans suggested.
  4. The wood fragments attached to the end of the nail were too minute to be analyzed. Haas suggested the vertical shaft of the cross was olive wood. This is possible, but unlikely.