Rival groups of monks wielding crowbars and sledgehammers clashed Wednesday over control of a 1,000-year-old monastery
Rival groups of monks wielding crowbars and sledgehammers clashed Wednesday over control of a 1,000-year-old monastery in a community regarded as the cradle of Orthodox Christianity, police said.
Seven monks were injured and transported by boat to receive treatment. They were released after several hours, police said. No one was arrested but three monks were banned from re-entering the Orthodox sanctuary of Mount Athos, located on a self-governing peninsula in northern Greece.
Esphigmenou monastery is the scene of a long-running dispute between Orthodox Church authorities and rebel monks who occupy the facility. Both Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, leader of the Orthodox Christian church, and Greece's highest administrative court have ordered their eviction, but the monks have refused to budge.
The rebel monks vehemently oppose efforts to improve relations between the Orthodox Church and the Vatican.
The fighting Wednesday broke out between the rebel monks and a group of legally recognized monks who were outside. The outsiders attempted to force their way into the monastery's offices in Karyes, the administrative center of the monastic community, to begin construction of a new building.
Occupying monks attacked those outside with crowbars and fire extinguishers.
Esphigmenou's rebel abbot, Methodius, said his monks had been provoked.
"We were attacked and had to respond," he said. "They should be ashamed to call themselves men of the cloth."
In October, a court in the nearby city of Thessaloniki handed down two-year suspended sentences against nine monks and former monastery members for illegally occupying Esphigmenou's offices. Supplies to the rebel monastery are brought in by supporters using dinghies from the nearby island of Thassos.
Esphigmenou is one of 20 monasteries on Athos, where women are banned.Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press.
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