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Greek Hermit Rebel Monk Killed

February 9, 2003

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) _ A 25-year-old hermit monk died after accidentally driving his tractor off a cliff in an attempt to dodge police who have barricaded the rebel monastery, authorities said Sunday.

The incident occurred early Saturday in the Orthodox Christian sanctuary of Mount Athos, where the rebel Esphigmenou monastery has been sealed off by police since Jan. 29.

Police said the monk, Tryfonas, who lived in solitary quarters, tried to retrieve a tractor outside the monastery grounds during the night to avoid police detection and drove off the side of a cliff.

Esphigmenou’s 117 monks are defying an eviction order imposed because of their fierce opposition to efforts to improve relations between the Orthodox Church and the Vatican.

They were ordered to leave the monastery after Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew _ spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians _ last year declared the monks ``schismatic.″

The 1,000-year-old Esphigmenou is one of 20 active monasteries on Mount Athos, a peninsula in northern Greece from which all women are banned.

Police, who have orders to expel anyone who leaves the high-walled monastery, briefly lifted their cordon Sunday so that male relatives of the dead monk could attend his funeral inside the grounds of Esphigmenou.

The monastery’s abbott has said Esphigmenou’s monks will defy the eviction order, and have water and food enough to last two years.

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