How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

Whenever Orthodox monastics make the news, it’s usually not a good thing. Recently there were the physical fights raging on Mount Athos. Now it’s nuns.

The nuns have fled the Saints Kirykos and Ioulittis monastery at Sidirokastro on the Bulgarian border in Greece because they can’t pay their debts. They appear to owe banks €500,000 and private creditors another €120,000. They are hiding out at the St Xenia monastery in the hills of central Greece. It’s a ready-made headline – one that Reuters, The Times, CNN, Ananova, The Australian, and many others have been unable to resist, referring to “nuns on the run”.

News reports also indicate that all 55 of the nuns are known as Maria, which I suppose is easier than making up names like Sister Euphemia of the Five Wounds and Sister Inviolata Of The Immaculate Conception (not that Orthodox nuns would ever name anything or anyone after the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception or any other Roman innovation).

The nuns had used the money to set up a knitting business. If you are thinking of them sitting in their cells and quietly clicking needles together when they are not in the chapel praying, think again. They had a factory with six large knitting machines. They sold their goods to 25 store chains around Greece. It’s not clear what caused the business to go belly up. Maybe it could never recoup the investment. They apparently used some of the money for travel to fashion shows throughout Europe to stay apprised of the latest trends in woollen wear.

This doesn’t appear to be a straightforward case of bankruptcy. Bank sources say that at least one loan application could have been forged. The nuns, who also had a candle-making and iconography business on the side, arranged to have their knitting factory equipment and furniture taken away to an unknown location in three trucks days before their own disappearance.

Even though it appears that some of their business activities may have been secret from Church authorities, the nuns initially asked their local hierarch Metropolitan Makarios to bail them out by selling other monastery properties. He declined. They want to settle at another monastery near Athens, but he won’t give them release papers. Now the head of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, has stepped in and is negotiating with them.


2 Responses to How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

  1. Margi says:

    Was Lord Levy involved?

  2. Dave says:

    He thought about it, but there wasn’t any money in it for the Labour Party. Of course, inasmuch as there is a cover up, he probably knows who is involved.

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