Protest backs rebel monks

Some 600 people demonstrated on Saturday in the village of Ouranoupolis, the gateway to Mt Athos, against the eviction of 100 rebel, ultra-Orthodox monks from their 1,000-year-old premises in the monastic community. The monks of the Esphigmenou monastery consider Istanbul-based Patriarch Vartholomaios – who has jurisdiction over Mt Athos – a renegade for trying to improve relations with the Roman Catholic Church. Vartholomaios excommunicated the monks and ordered them to leave the premises by last Tuesday. Police have cordoned off the monastery, while the monks, who have stockpiled supplies, refuse to go and are fighting the eviction in court. «Forces of evil have surrounded the monastery,» said protester Dionyssios Avramides. Maria Papaderaki, 62, said her four sons were in Esphigmenou. «I am furious because I gave my blessing to my sons to dedicate themselves to God and now they want to throw them out. If needed, they will give their lives to stay there.» (Combined reports)