Greek police clear Thessaloniki apartment used by zealot monks opposed to Orthodox Church head

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Dozens of Greek police have taken part in an operation to clear an apartment used as the headquarters of a rebel monastery whose monks have been declared schismatic by the Orthodox Church.

Police said one monk and five supporters were in the apartment in Thessaloniki during the raid early Friday, which followed a court decision for the eviction. Riot police blocked off surrounding blocks to prevent other supporters from hindering the operation.

Monks from the 1,000-year-old Esphigmenou Monastery, in the self-governed Mount Athos monastic community near Thessaloniki in northern Greece, are in a bitter dispute with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians.

They accuse the patriarch of treason for seeking better relations with the Catholic Church.