ATHENS, Greece, Jan. 12 (AP) - They dress in black, challenge the establishment and sell lots of records. But like many icons of rock music, they may not make it past their prime.
A group of monks whose rock band produced a platinum album and spawned a host of other Christian pop acts have made few fans among the conservative clergy running Greece's Orthodox Church.
The Holy Synod, the church's governing body, on Friday told them to stop recording, claiming their music had tarnished centuries of monastic tradition.
``Certain monks have used novel ways to relay the message of Christ,'' the Church said in a statement. ``This type of activity is not consistent with the lengthy monastic tradition ... and in certain cases, has troubled and scandalized the faithful members of the church."
The Synod suggested it would be better if the bearded monks lay down their guitars and return to their cells.
``Hundreds of monks and nuns of our church live an ascetic life of prayer and constant worship of God,'' the Church said, adding their work ``should be far from every worldly intention and self-promotion.''
Father Nektarios and his fellow monks at a remote monastery in central Greece shot to fame last summer with ``Tsipaki,'' or ``Little Computer Chip'', an attack on technology's invasion into people's private lives. Their videos - soon to become hot collectors' items - include footage from the Gulf War, actors sprayed in gold paint, and the bearded monks jamming on a wooded hilltop.
Their first record, ``I Learned to Live Free'' quickly gained cult status after strong media exposure of the monks, usually associated with somber devotion. The group's new disc, ``SOS,'' is scheduled for release early this year.
Monks also appeared on television news, shooting hoops, playing soccer, and driving go-carts with young people.
``We are surprised by the position of the Synod, because on the one hand we have all these letters of congratulation, and suddenly they issue a statement which accuses us,'' Nektarios said.
The monks turned to music after complaining about the lyrics of songs popular among young boys at a camp the monastery runs, tucked in the mountains overlooking the Corinthian Gulf about 185 miles (296 kilometers) northwest of Athens. All the proceeds from their music go to the camp.
Nektarios had argued that because of his efforts the Church connected with youth culture, and other monks formed bands to produce Christmas records, including a collection of ballads in Greek and English.