19 May 2019, 13:32
New Athos is closed for tourists due to church conflict in Abkhazia
The heads of the of New Athos (also known as Novy Afon) Monastery have accused an opponent church grouping of an attempt to seize the monastery and called on the authorities of Abkhazia to prevent believers' clashes. The decision to close one of the most popular tourist sites will seriously harm the industry, Anna Kalyagina, the head of the Abkhaz Tourism Union, has stated.
"While earlier the pilgrimage was developing very rapidly, now for several years it is getting worse because of the split," Ms Kalyagina has noted. She explained that the clergymen, who would not recognize the monastic authorities, forbade their parishioners to visit the New Athos.
The New Athos Monastery is one of the most attractive sites for tourists in Abkhazia, said Elena Yurchenko, a coordinator of the "Guest Card" Project.
As a result of the 1992-1993 armed conflict, the head of the Sukhumi-Abkhaz Diocese, appointed from Tbilisi, left his post; and the clerics refused to obey the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC), says the website "Hierarchy of Liturgical Churches".
The decision to close the New Athos Monastery was made on May 15 by the Council of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia; according to its website, on May 11, Priest Vissarion Aplia arrived at the monastery, setting an ultimatum before the Archimandrite: either he writes a "penitential letter" to the Moscow Patriarch Kirill, or leaves the monastery. Dorofei Dbar refused. Representatives of the Sukhumi-Pitsunda Diocese stayed in the monastery and held a service, which was treated by the heads of the New Athos as an attempt to "forcibly seize the monastery."