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Greek groups objecting to papal visit

Waving Greek flags and wooden crosses, more than 1000 demonstrators protested on Wednesday against the forthcoming visit to Greece by Pope John Paul II.

With chants of "pope out, hands off Orthodoxy," the demonstrators - including monks, priests and members of fringe religious groups - demanded that the pope not be officially received by Greece's Orthodox Church.

The Holy Father is scheduled to arrive in Greece next Friday at the start of a five-day tour of biblical sites that also includes Syria and Malta.

Greek Orthodox leader Archbishop Christodoulos has made repeated appeals for calm during the papal visit, the first time a pope has travelled to Greece in 1291 years.

Ultra-religious groups, furious at the church's decision to invite the pope, have promised to stage street demonstrations during the visit.

"This demonstration is taking place because we are determinedly opposed to the visit of the pope to our Orthodox Greece," said Fr Maximos, one of the organisers.

The Orthodox split with the Vatican more than 1000 years ago in dispute over papal authority and have accused the Vatican of perceived injustices dating as far back as the 1204 sacking of Constantinople by crusaders.