Archbishop Says Greek School Religion Books Need Church OK

FILE -Greek Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos (Holy and Great Council via AP).

ATHENS – The head of the Church of Greece has insisted that it will maintain final approval of what textbooks on religion will be used in schools after Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras earlier had bowed to him in agreement.

Archbishop Ieronymos said told the Romfea religious news agency that,  “Religious books must have the seal of the Church,” adding that he had reminded the Education Ministry that this was backed by a meeting between the Holy Synod, teachers of theological schools and members of the ministry’s Institute of Educational Policy.

Ieronymos told Romfea that the Church must be able to ensure that religion lessons in schools are not “unorthodox and anti-Christian,” demanding the right to oversee what students are taught.
“It must be admitted,” he said, “the state is overlooking us,” although Tsipras, an atheist who said he would seek separation of Church and State before backing away from any clash with Ieronymos, has deferred to the Church over the textbooks.

The Archbishop was able in 2016 to squeeze out then-Education Minister Nikos Filis, who wanted religions other than Greek Orthodoxy to be taught and for religion to be taught in a secular fashion in schools.

After backing down over religion classes, Filis said there had to be be separation between the Greek Church and government but that led to his being dumped by Tsipras.

At the time, Tsipras agreed to let the Church have the final say in how religion is taught this year and for the current textbooks to be used.

Speaking to Real FM Filis said most in SYRIZA agreed with him but not, as it turned out, Tsipras.
“Leftist folk have for years been nurtured (with the idea) and are politically convinced that steps must be taken in what is known as separation of Church and state,” Filis said. But Tsipras has abandoned his fiery Leftist rhetoric in reneging on virtually all his promises to stay in power and act more like a political pragmatist than zealot.

Filis was wrong when he said the government, not the Church, would have the final word.
“There is no question about who decides. The state has the final say on this. It won’t be a joint decision,” he said, echoing what he said previously before backing down.