Greek hierarchs speak out against proposed separation of Church and state agreement

Kalavryta and Piraeus, Greece, November 9, 2018

Photo: Romfea Photo: Romfea

Many hierarchs, clergy, and faithful of the Greek Orthodox Church are speaking out against the proposed agreement on separating the Greek Church and state and enshrining the religious neutrality of the state in the constitution.

As OrthoChristian recently reported, His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece and the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came to an agreement on the conditions for the separation, including among other things, the removal of clergy from the state system. Thus, the state would offer a stipend to the Church rather than paying clergy salaries.

The agreement is not official, requiring the ratification of both the Church and government as a whole.

Among the hierarchs speaking out, His Eminence Metropolitan Ambrose of Kalavryta has criticized the state’s legislative initiatives and urged the clergy of the Church to resist the agreement reached by the Archbishop and the Prime Minister, reports Romfea.

“The Greek state will extract priests from the list of those receiving wages from the state treasury,” His Eminence said, recalling that clerical salaries were paid by the state in accordance with an agreement signed several decades ago in exchange for receiving Church and monastery property.

He believes that the state’s promise to pay the Church a subsidy rather than the salaries will not solve, but only freeze the situation.

And speaking of his own diocese, he noted, “In the Kalavryta Metropolis, only 113 job slots are filled out of 160, and the Metropolis will no long have the chance to assign 47 priests,” noting that while the churches remain vacant, the Greek state appoints Muftis for Muslims in Thrace and builds mosques on Greek taxpayers’ money.

“Our Church is under persecution, and therefore all of us today are undesirable in the governmental scheme of the atheists who rule us,” Met. Ambrose believes.

He concluded his message calling: “Greek Orthodox clergy, rise up! Take up the banners of resistance!”

His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus has expressed a similar position, saying, “I believe that this agreement is a way of marginalizing the Church. Mathematically, the Church will lose its status as a legal person governed by public law and become a private matter—this is the aim. This is the privatization of the Church.”

The Piraeus hierarch also referred to the agreement of 1952 in which the Church allocated 770,000 acres of land for settling those left homeless after the civil war, noting that as compensation, the Church didn’t even receive 1/3 of the value of the land, and that the Church took 167 buildings which could never be taxed.

“So the Greek state comes and circumvents the terms of the contract and the Council of State comes and says it’s all well done. It is certain that once this happens, after a while, a law will pass that will stop financing the Church,” Met. Seraphim warned.

The clerical organization the Holy Union of Priests, representing the vast majority of Greek priests, earlier demanded for the agreement to be abandoned.

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