No force on zealot monks

The Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Mt Athos monastic community have opted for stealth rather than force in their efforts to evict some 100 ultra-Orthodox monks from the Esphigmenou Monastery. The abbots of the other 19 Mt Athos monasteries met yesterday at Karyes, the community’s administrative center, to decide on further action against the Esphigmenou monks whom they asked to leave the monastery in December 2002. The most likely course of action, it appeared last night, is to establish another monastic community, decare it the legal proprietors of the monastery and settle it temporarily elsewhere. Last March, Greece’s Council of State, the highest administrative court, rejected an appeal by Esphigmenou’s abbot, Methodios, to nullify the eviction order by the Patriarchate and the monastic community. The court said it had no jurisdiction over the matter, adding that the Patriarchate has absolute authority over the community. The Esphigmenou monks broke with the mainstream Orthodox Church in 1964, when Patriarch Athenagoras met with Pope John VI. The ultra-Orthodox regard the pope as evil incarnate.