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Renegade Monks Allegedly Hurl Firebombs at Greek Authorities After Eviction Notice

"We had warned them that if they provoked us, we would respond."

(Photo courtesy Wiki Commons)

THESSALONIKI, Greece (TheBlaze/AP) -- A group of monks on Greece's monastic sanctuary of Mount Athos who are facing eviction attacked court bailiffs with rocks and petrol bombs on 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, but the bailiffs were forced to retreat 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.

The monastery's website linked to the video, below:

The monks also deny hurling bombs of any kind, adding that "Greek government officials are trying to cover up their complicity in these lawless and criminal activities by spreading false reports to media outlet now that their nefarious activity has been exposed."

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, defying court orders to leave the monastery and allow church-appointed replacements to take over the site.

Aristos Kasmiroglou, civilian governor of Mount Athos, added for the AP: "According to the information we have received from the police, explosive materials were thrown at the bailiffs."

"The law must apply to everyone. And all sides must safeguard the pious nature of the site," he added.

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 Greece.

"They came in the morning and started banging on the doors," Esphigmenou monk Elder Savvas remarked.  "We had warned them that if they provoked us, we would respond."

CBS was granted a rare look inside the monastery for a 2011 episode of "60 Minutes."  Learn more about the monks, below:

[Front page image courtesy Wiki Commons]

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