Rebel monks get marching orders

A recalcitrant group of ultra-Orthodox Mount Athos monks has been excommunicated, declared schismatic and ordered to promptly evacuate their 1,000-year-old monastery, the Ecumenical Patriarchate said yesterday. The decision could signal final victory for the Istanbul-based Patriarchate in its 30-year war with the monks of the Esphigmenou Monastery, who refuse to acknowledge the «renegade» patriarch’s authority or abide by the Athos monastic community’s rules. Their relations with the Patriarchate – which has jurisdiction over Mt Athos – soured after the 1964 Istanbul meeting between Patriarch Athinagoras and Pope Paul VI. For the 100-odd monks, who have draped a banner reading «Orthodoxy or Death» from their medieval walls, this was high treason. The Patriarchate said yesterday the monks would have to «leave the Athos Peninsula without further ado,» having been declared «unrepentants, schismatics and subject to excommunication.» The Greek Constitution bans schismatics and non-Orthodox from dwelling on Mt Athos.

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