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Last Updated: Monday, 29 January 2007, 18:45 GMT
Greek nuns flee business fiasco
By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Athens

Xenia convent
Nuns at Xenia are reluctant to explain their predicament
An entire order of nuns has fled a convent on the Greek-Bulgarian border after running up huge debts.

The nuns' knitting business, serving 25 shops across Greece, has crashed.

From mother superior to the most junior novice, the 55 nuns sought sanctuary in the Xenia convent in the hills of central Greece.

The Greek Holy Synod is trying to sort out their debts of some 760,000 euros (500,000) and persuade them to come out of hiding.

As I walked past the small domed chapel towards the cloisters, bolts slammed across heavy wooden doors, keys clicked double locks into place and curtains twitched in the nuns' cells (bedrooms).

Their sentinel was a stooped, beetle-browed, elderly nun clutching a copy of the New Testament.

I asked her to confirm that this was indeed the hideout of the runaway order.

"So what?" she snapped back in Greek, "who wants to know?"

Then her tone softened. "If God wills it," she said, "someone will come and talk to you," and she despatched a novice to find out.

She quickly returned with the news that the mother superior was exercising her right to remain silent.

So I left as empty-handed as the nuns' creditors. According to the Kathimerini newspaper, they exacerbated their financial problems by going abroad to fashion shows to check out the latest designs in woollen garments.

Their assets may have to be liquidated and property belonging to their convent at Sidirokastro could be sold to pay off their debts.



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