Zealots clash with police at Mount Athos

Police and coast guard officials are on standby today at Ouranoupolis and Ierissos, the two port connections to Mount Athos in northern Greece, following clashes yesterday with a crowd of demonstrators who tried to force their way into the monastic community to join a group of rebel monks for an annual religious celebration. Around 30 protesters tried to break through a police cordon and gain access to Mount Athos to express support for the ultra-Orthodox monks who have been illegally occupying the Esphigmenou Monastery since 2002 when they fell out with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate. Supporters of the zealot monks, who were declared schismatic for violently opposing attempts to mend a rift between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, have tried to break into the monastery every year since 2002, always ahead of Ascension Day, celebrated 40 days after Easter.

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