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Israeli officials assists Franciscans to reclaim monastery by force
    Israeli court officials broke down the door of the St. John of the Desert monastery on Sunday, enforcing an order to evict six Melkite monks and return the site to its owners, the Franciscans.
    The monastery was built by the Franciscans in 1922 on a hillside of trees and wildflowers where John the Baptist is thought to have lived in solitude in a cave.
    The Melkite monks, members of a Greek Catholic denomination loyal to the Pope, leased the monastery from the Franciscan order in 1978. They prayed, raised honey bees, made wood carvings and silver crosses and painted icons at the secluded monastery.
    The Franciscans filed suit in 1994, noting that the lease had expired and was not renewed. An Israeli court ruled that the site belonged to the Franciscans, and the monks were ordered to leave by Wednesday. Six monks locked themselves inside.
    "They (court officials) used an electric saw on a Sunday to destroy the door of a church, coming in yelling, insulting, blaspheming," said Fr Elisha, who had stayed outside.
    "I hope they will leave in good will," said Abdel Masih, administrator of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
   
AP
   
7-Mar-01

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