CLOSER TO GOD – One of the magical lures of Greece and steeped in ancient tradition and centuries of history, the monastery of Simonos Petra, at the Orthodox monastic sanctuary of Mount Athos, in northern Greece is set to mark its 100 year anniversary since becoming Greek sovereign territory after the region was freed from Ottoman rule. It’s now a self-governing peninsula but has run into political troubles with the Greek government which wants to assess taxes on the institution and its properties, with the monks retorting that they will bar politicians from attending the celebrations if they try. While the monks want their independence, and have been embroiled in land swap deals that cost the government scores of millions of dollars, most Greeks and those in the Diaspora – along with people around the world – view Mt. Athos as a place of mystery and religion. Only males are permitted to visit the territory, which is called Garden of the Virgin by the monks, with Orthodox Christians taking precedence in permit issuance procedures.