Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Police storm Mt. Athos monastery

In an unprecedented step the holy mount's civilian administrator called for the police as the rebellious monks vowed to defy an order demanding that they leave the far-flung peninsula today.

"We could hold out for two years," declared a defiant Abbot Methodius, who heads the ultra-conservative Esphigmenou monastery. "We are prepared to fight on even though the authorities have cut off our electricity, water, heating and food supplies."

The 117 monks, the most doctrinally rigid of the 2,000 who inhabit an array of monasteries on the semi-autonomous republic, have denounced the Pope as a heretic.

For years they have shrouded their medieval settlement with a banner proclaiming "Orthodoxy or death" while demanding that the Orthodox faith's spiritual leader, Bartholomew I, tone down his overtures towards Rome.

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