A group of Christian Orthodox monks from a remote monastery in central Greece were cited Wednesday for their gold and platinum-selling album. The group - called The Free - shot to fame last year with the rock CD ``I Learned to Live Free,'' which went on to sell some 70,000 copies.
The bearded monks are also currently number four on Greece's pop charts with their latest single, the ``Little Computer Chip'', from their new album ``SOS.''
``The Free uses methods (for spreading the faith) that may seem unusual to some, but ... they are the methods for the 20th and 21st centuries we're living in,'' said Father Nektarios Moulatsiotis, who acts as the group's manager. ``These are methods that get results.''
The Free's songs come with slick music videos and serve up traditional Christian themes, as well warnings about globalization and rampant technology - in rock and ballad formats, even rap at live performances.
Despite the group's popularity, the conservative clergy running Greece's Orthodox Church soured at the monks' success.
The Holy Synod, the church's governing body, ordered the monks to lay down their guitars and return to their cells. They said their music could tarnish centuries of monastic tradition.
Some popular Greek singers also appear unnerved by the monks' meteoric success, and claim their cult status with Greek teen-agers rather than talent has pushed them up the charts.
But the rocking monks promise to keep performing. They have ignored the criticism and accuse the Orthodox clergy of being stiff and distant from their flock.
``We must understand that the Church cannot just lecture young people ... that is not enough to save them from catastrophe,'' Nektarios writes on the sleeve of the new CD. ``We must propose alternatives and suggest the right things for people to do.''
All proceeds from their music go to the children's summer camp run by the monks at their monastery in the central Greek town of Trikorfo about 185 miles (295 kilometers) northwest of Athens.
Both CDs are distributed without a bar code, which some Orthodox faithful consider a sign of technology's encroachment.
In Greece, platinum status is earned with 50,000 sales and gold with 25,000.