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U.S. NUNS PROTEST TAKEOVER OF MONASTERY

Two American nuns holed up for two weeks to protest the takeover of a Russian Orthodox monastery marked the first anniversary of taking their vows Monday, with fellow sisters handing them white flowers through the compound gate.

The nuns, including the sister of former White House spokesman George Stephanopoulos, are trying to prevent the Jericho Garden Monastery from being taken over by the Moscow-based "Red" Russian Orthodox Church.

The nuns, Sister Maria Stephanopoulos of New York and Sister Xenia Cesana of San Francisco, belong to the rival "White" church founded by Russian exiles.

On Jan. 15, Palestinian police raided the monastery near Jericho's central market and expelled most of the "White" clerics, saying documents show that the property belongs to the "Red" church.

The two American nuns rushed to the monastery during the raid, refused to leave and have been inside since. Palestinian police guards posted outside the monastery have kept visitors away, and the two nuns communicate by mobile phone.

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