Athens, Oct 9--(AP) Greece's Orthodox Church has decided to stick with tradition, turning down a request by priests who wanted to shed their long beards, black robes and pipe hats, state-run radio said Wednesday.

Priests supporting the change said they wanted to modernize their image and increase their marriage prospects. Their conservative look, they said, also hurts their ability to reach out to ordinary people.

But the church rejected the long-standing request after it was considered Monday at a meeting of church elders. "There is no change on this issue," said Metropolitan Bishop Anthimos, a church spokesman.

High-ranking Greek orthodox clergy use only one name. About 97 percent of Greece's 11 million native citizens are members of the Orthodox Church, and opponents of the dress code say most women are unwilling to be seen with a man in robes and a long beard.

Orthodox priests may marry only before they are ordained, and only single priests may rise above the lower ranks of the clergy. Bishop Anthimos said exceptions to the dress code can be made only when priests are involved in manual labor. "There must be understanding for priests who live in rural parishes," he said. "Many of them have to tend to their fields. It is acceptable for them to wear shorter robes."

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