July 29, 2013, 10:03 AM
Facing eviction, rogue Greek monks hurl petrol bombs at bailiffs
THESSALONIKI, Greece A group of monks on Greece's monastic sanctuary of
Mount Athos who are facing eviction attacked court bailiffs with rocks
and petrol bombs Monday, according to civilian authorities on the
peninsula in northern Greece
No one was injured in the incident early Monday outside the
administrative offices of Esphigmenou Monastery, and no arrests were
reported. The bailiffs retreated from the site.
Cell phone video of part of the incident, taken by the rebel monks and
seen by the Associated Press, showed the court-appointed bailiffs using
a small earth-moving machine in an unsuccessful attempt to force their
way into the grounds of the office at Karyes, the capital of the
all-male sanctuary from where its 20 monasteries are run.
About 100 monks in the 1,000-year-old Esphigmenou monastery have been
involved in a years-old dispute with the spiritual leader of the world's
Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, over his
efforts to improve relations with the Vatican.
The monks have defied court orders to leave the monastery and allow
church-appointed replacements to take over the site and the Karyes
offices about 15 miles to the south.
"According to the information we have received from the police,
explosive materials were thrown at the bailiffs," Aristos Kasmiroglou,
civilian governor of Mount Athos, told the AP.
"The law must apply to everyone. And all sides must safeguard the pious
nature of the site."
The Esphigmenou monks — who argue that they are safeguarding
centuries-old Orthodox traditions — have refused to leave the complex,
and receive food and other assistance from supporters in other parts of
"They came in the morning and started banging on the doors," Esphigmenou
monk Elder Savvas, who said he witnessed the incident, told the AP.
"We had warned them that if they provoked us, we would respond."
Mount Athos was set aside by ancient emperors to be the spiritual
capitol of Orthodox Christianity and has probably changed less over the
centuries than any other inhabited place on the planet. The monks come
here from all over and do everything they can to keep what they call
"the world" far away.
Not surprisingly, journalists are not exactly welcome. For more than two
years, "60 Minutes" producers corresponded, negotiated and, frankly,
pleaded for an invitation but ran into one monastic wall after another.
Then, much to the producers' surprise, and delight, the monks finally
said, "Okay, come see who we are," in early 2011.
Father Iakovos is one of a few Americans on the mountain.
He's been here more than half his life, and he told "60 Minutes" he has
a simple reason why the place is so alluring: "You have to understand,
the words that we're saying in today's liturgy, are the same words that
Christ was saying, are the same words that saints from the first
century, the second century, the third century, the fourth century."
Nothing has changed in orthodoxy since then - it's the only branch of
Christianity that can make that claim.