Monastic rebels will go to court

A rebel community of zealot monks excommunicated for heresy and told to leave their Mount Athos premises in two weeks’ time will take their fight with Church authorities to court, the monastery’s leader said yesterday. Abbot Methodios, who heads the 100-odd monks living in the 1,000-year-old Esphigmenou Monastery, told a press conference in Thessaloniki that the community would appeal against the eviction order to the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court. In December, the Istanbul-based Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has jurisdiction over the 20 Mount Athos monasteries, ordered Methodios and his monks to vacate the premises by January 28. Methodios said Esphigmenou’s dispute with the patriarch – whom the monks refuse to mention in their prayers – was «of a spiritual nature,» and should be addressed «with spiritual weapons.» The split dates to 1964, when the patriarch of the day, Athinagoras, met Pope Paul VI in Istanbul. For Orthodox zealots, who regard the Pope as evil personified, that was an act of treachery.

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