Hammer-wielding monks clash at holy site

“Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.”

–Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), September 2006

The title for this post was the headline used by the Oregonian for a story about a different religious conflict than the one Lott was referencing:

7 monks injured in clash over monastery

By COSTAS KANTOURIS, Associated Press Writer
Wed Dec 20, 5:38 PM ET

THESSALONIKI, Greece – Rival groups of monks wielding crowbars and sledgehammers clashed Wednesday over control of a 1,000-year-old monastery in a community regarded as the cradle of Orthodox Christianity, police said.

Seven monks were injured and transported by boat to receive treatment. They were released after several hours, police said. No one was arrested but three monks were banned from re-entering the Orthodox sanctuary of Mount Athos, located on a self-governing peninsula in northern Greece.

The rebel monks vehemently oppose efforts to improve relations between the Orthodox Church and the Vatican.

In October, a court in the nearby city of Thessaloniki handed down two-year suspended sentences against nine monks and former monastery members for illegally occupying Esphigmenou’s offices. Supplies to the rebel monastery are brought in by supporters using dinghies from the nearby island of Thassos.

Esphigmenou is one of 20 monasteries on Athos, where women are banned.

So, competing groups of Orthodox monks are literally fighting about whether the their own church should be making nice with Rome. I wonder if Lott could tell them apart.

The story resonates for me somewhat oddly, because a much-removed-by-marriage-and-distance relative was attacked by a man with a hammer at a convent in Germany early this month (my spotty translation):

Pensioner near death after attack in convent

02. Dez 2006 12:23

A 71-year-old floats near death after a crazed attack in a Bavarian convent. The assailant attacked several people with a hammer.

After the attack in a convent in Bavaria’s Zell-am-Main, the victim remains in critical condition. The 36-year-old attacker used two hammers to hit him on the head and in the face near the Obernzell convent.

Shortly after the attack, a policeman shot the assailant and stopped him. The man — with a history of violence — died later at the hospital. An autopsy should be performed Saturday, according to police.

The attacker first broke into the yard of the convent. The 45-year-old janitor entered, the man hit him. The janitor fled, then the man found two hammers at a nearby building site and attacked the 45-year-old again, although he remained unharmed.

The pensioner hit the attacker on the forehead with a shovel, said the investigator. The lunatic then turned on him. By the time police arrived with pepper spray, the assailant was sitting on his victim to hit him. A 28-year-old policeman shot him twice from about sixteen feet.

The attacker was already well-known to police. A year ago he attacked a woman in a hotel. A senior public prosecutor said the appraisal at the time was that he was disturbed but not insane.