Five luxury homes have recently appeared right next to the historic Pendeli Monastery. Officially classified as reconstructed «bird coops,» they are in fact illegally built structures apparently destined to house the ambitions of church officials. According to charges brought by an archimandrite at the monastery and local residents, these houses have been built on land destined for reforestation, an argument rejected by the local forestry service. The Eastern Attica town-planning authority has been silent on the issue. Work on the homes began two years ago right next to the monastery on the site of the Inter-Orthodox Center, a foundation that holds theological conferences and other events. The first charges of illegal construction were made by Archimandrite Timotheos Kilifis. «The non-governmental organization ‘Solidarity’ of the Church of Greece which, quite wrongly, is based at the Inter-Orthodox Center which is also on the monastery grounds, and its director Dimitris Fourlemadis illegally built five bungalows that they are now trying, after the fact, to legalize,» Kilifis told Kathimerini. «The buildings were constructed without permits from the town-planning authority on forestland; the authorities have not spoken out because they are afraid,» he added. The archimandrite’s charges were followed by press reports that mobilized Pendeli residents against apparent plans to «develop» the monastery’s land. On May 16, the Pendeli Cultural Group submitted a report to the Pendeli forestry service asking what it was planning to do about the buildings. «We visited the monastery and saw the five homes. So then we approached the forestry inspector, Dimitris Dinokas, and the head of the Municipal Association for the Protection of Pendeli, Dimitris Stergiou, and asked them to tell us the truth,» said the group’s chairperson Eleni Rota. «We have yet to receive an answer.» Kathimerini went to the Pendeli forestry service, where it received this explanation: «After inspecting the site we found five stone structures,» said forestry official Alexandros Rigas. «According to the interim property map and chart we saw that they have not been built in forest but on farm land, where there were once chicken coops.» According to the monastery’s secretary, Father Chrysostomos, the homes are built to house women guests of the Inter-Orthodox Center. Kilifis rejects this argument since the center, which is right next to the new buildings, has 60 cells and all other necessary facilities for accommodating guests. The fact is, however, that the new structures were built without the appropriate permits being issued. According to the monastery’s secretary, these are not new buildings but simply «renovations» of the old chicken coops. The local municipality is in absolute accord with the head of the monastery, claiming that the end justifies the means. «The accusations are false and unfounded,» the mayor of Pendeli told Kathimerini. «It is wrong to focus on this one point when nothing has been left standing in Pendeli. The area in question is not forestland, and there were other buildings on the site beforehand (i.e. the chicken coops). These buildings are a positive addition to the area and were made for a good purpose,» he said. On another nearby property, there were plans for a 72-booth exhibition center, but this site is in fact forestland, the property of the monastery. The plans had the support of the local authorities, but they were shelved after they were made public and protests were raised. «After our protests the construction of the 72 booths was canceled along with the granting to the Church of Greece of a large area of monastery property that had been burned, an area destined for development by the ‘Solidarity’ association,» said Kilifis. «However, I would like to believe that our Archbishop Christodoulos, who is so interested in the environment, will never allow it but will lead the way to the reforestation of the 14 hectares of monastery property that was destroyed by fire,» he told Kathimerini.