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Monks protest at Pope as Greece goes on strike

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    2001.04.27 Guardian: Monks protest at Pope as Greece goes on strike Michael Howard in Athens Guardian Friday April 27, 2001 Monks at the all-male community of
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 27, 2001
      2001.04.27 Guardian:
      Monks protest at Pope as Greece goes on strike

      Michael Howard in Athens
      Guardian

      Friday April 27, 2001

      Monks at the all-male community of Mount Athos, one of the most revered
      places in Orthodoxy, will stage an all-night vigil tonight to pray against
      the Pope's historic visit to Greece next Friday.

      Their protest comes amid mounting anger by rank-and-file clergy at the
      church leadership's decision to lift long-held objections to a papal visit.

      Greece is currently engulfed in a tide of strikes against the Socialist
      government's social security reforms.

      Hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets across the country
      yesterday, shutting down schools and offices, halting public transport and
      closing down the media. Even priests heeded the strike call.

      If the papal visit goes ahead, religious conservatives have predicted
      widespread protests, and even violence.

      The 80-year-old John Paul II will pay a 24-hour visit to Greece next Friday
      to retrace the footsteps of St Paul the Apostle, making him the first pope
      to visit the country since the "great schism" of 1054 which split
      Christianity into eastern and western branches.

      The Pope will make a pilgrimage to the Areopagus, the hill to the west of
      the Acropolis where St Paul preached the Sermon of the Unknown God.

      He will also celebrate mass at the Olympic indoor sports stadium. The tour
      then takes him to Syria and Malta.

      Moderates within the Greek Orthodox church hope the trip will help heal
      nearly 1,000 years of deep distrust between the churches. Many Orthodox
      faithful blame the Vatican for what they perceive to be centuries of
      misdeeds against them - from the sacking of Constantinople by crusaders in
      1204 to the bombing of Orthodox Serbia in 1999.

      "We expect the Pope to make a humble gesture of love and apology," said
      Haris Konidaris, the spokesman for Archbishop Christodoulos, the head of
      the Greek church. "Then the fanatics here will be silenced."

      The archbishop has repeatedly called for calm from Greece's ultra-Orthodox
      groups, including the influential Old Calendarists, who boast some 800,000
      followers.

      "The faithful will take to the streets; blood could be shed," warnedone
      black-robed monk.

      "Out with the two-horned beast, the Pope of Rome 666!" read a banner. "No
      to the leader of heresy," read another.

      Police have tightened security at Catholic churches across Greece. But
      fears for the Pope's safety have been raised since the weekend, too, when a
      home-made bomb exploded outside the offices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
      in Athens. No one was hurt in the afternoon blast, which was claimed by
      anarchists.

      Last week, Bartholomew I, head of the Eastern Orthodox church whose seat is
      in Istanbul, had welcomed the papal trip and he accused opponents of
      displaying "ecclesiastical provincialism".

      Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001
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