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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Nuns killed for convent treasure
By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Athens

Church in Peloponnese
The Peloponnese is home to many historic monasteries and churches
Police in southern Greece are hunting the killers of two elderly nuns found suffocated in their hillside convent.

The motive appears to be robbery - the killers are believed to have taken a crucifix containing wood reputedly from the cross on which Jesus Christ died.

The two murdered nuns were 83 and 61 years old.

They were the sole occupants of the monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin near Astros, about 130km (80 miles) south-west of Athens.

A nephew of the younger victim said the mother superior had had a premonition that thieves would come to the hillside sanctuary, kill them and take everything.

Police say the two women were suffocated with pillows.

An inventory is being checked to determine exactly what was stolen.

This region of the Peloponnese is full of historic monasteries and convents, most of which contain valuable icons and gold artefacts.

Until now, their protection has been the faith and reverence for the Church of local people.

The double murder follows last year's widely publicised theft from a convent of a precious icon of the Virgin Mary said to possess miraculous powers.

The crimes are being portrayed as the end of an age of innocence, and theologians are calling on the Church to access European Union funds to beef up security.

A local resident comments on the murders

Country profile: Greece
19 Apr 07 |  Country profiles

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