Police clear apartment used by rebel monks

Dozens of Greek police took part in an operation Friday to clear an apartment used as a hostel by a rebel monastery whose monks have been declared schismatic by the Orthodox Church.

Police said one monk and five supporters were in the apartment in central Thessaloniki during the raid, which followed a court decision for the eviction. Riot police blocked off surrounding blocks to prevent other supporters from hindering the operation.

Monks from the 1,000-year-old Esphigmenou Monastery, in the self-governed Mount Athos monastic community outside Thessaloniki in northern Greece, are in a bitter dispute with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

They accuse the patriarch of treason for seeking better relations with the Catholic Church.

Esphigmenou’s 125 monks refuse to cede the monastery, the Thessaloniki hostel and another building on Mount Athos — from which women are banned — to a new brotherhood created by the patriarch that they say so far numbers five members.

Police efforts to dislodge them have failed.

The rebel monks issued a statement deploring the raid.

“When there is no justice, what can we expect?” Esphigmenou’s abbot, Methodios, told the AP. [AP]

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