Rebel monks to face embezzlement probe

A prosecutor in Thessaloniki has ordered an investigation into whether any property or money belonging to the Esphigmenou monastery has been embezzled by the ultra-Orthodox monks on Mount Athos who refuse to leave the monastic community, court sources said yesterday. Prosecutor Vassilis Floridis has asked police to check the monastery’s bank accounts and land registry records to see if there has been any wrongdoing. The Esphigmenou monks occupy one of Greece’s oldest monasteries and have been locked in a dispute since 1972 with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul over its decision to improve ties with the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican. Last week, a court in Thessaloniki gave suspended two-year jail sentences to nine Esphigmenou monks after finding them guilty of disturbing the peace.