[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 21 January 2007, 15:11 GMT
Zeus devotees worship in Athens
By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Athens

Female priestess with an olive tree branch at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
The temple of Zeus has not been long unattended by priestesses
Worshippers who believe in the 12 gods of ancient Greece have held a ceremony at the Temple of Zeus in Athens.

This is a landmark event to celebrate official recognition of their religion by a court last year.

The Greek Orthodox Church has said they are miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion.

But the ceremony went ahead, with crowds watching priests and priestesses, who said the event was a symbol of their civic rights.

In 2003, white-clad worshippers performed an illicit ceremony at the Temple of Hephaestus, just below the Acropolis.

At that time they were chased off the site by ministry of culture staff.

Despite vigorous opposition from the highly conservative Greek Orthodox Church, a court last year officially recognised the revived ancient Greek religion.

Statue of Zeus
The worshippers are loyal to Zeus and the other Olympians
One of its leaders, Doretta Peppa, a writer who calls herself a high priestess, told the BBC the temples were built to respect the gods and now they were going to be put to their proper use.

Ms Peppa said she had been given official permission to use the temple, but there were fears that the culture ministry, which administers the site, might give way to pressure from the church.

The president of the Association of Greek Clergymen, Father Efstathios Kollas, has described the followers of the Olympic gods as a handful of miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion who wish to return to the monstrous dark delusions of the past.

Ms Peppa and her followers aspire to have the rights afforded to Britain's druids who worship at Stonehenge, and Danish believers in Thor and the Nordic gods who are allowed to perform marriages, baptisms and funerals.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific