ATHENS – Archbishop Ieronymos, head of the Church of Greece, has agreed not to oppose Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras’ plan to separate Church and State in return for the government continuing to guarantee the salaries of the country’s 9,000 clergymen.
The Church will not go against the atheist Tsipras’ scheme of “religious neutrality,” which the Premier promised he would do when taking power in 2015 but waited more than three years, with elections required to be held by October, 2019.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Archbishop Ieronymos agreed on Tuesday that the government will continue to guarantee the wages of the country’s some 9,000 clergymen and, in exchange, the Church of Greece will not oppose proposals to make the state “religion neutral.”
In a joint televised address, Tsipras referred to an “historic agreement” with the Greek Orthodox Church as part of a constitutional revision aimed, among others, at changing relations between church and state.
Tsipras said that clerics will no longer be considered civil servants paid by the government bute will be paid by the church – guaranteed by the government with an annual subsidy of 189 million euros ($216.09) with no explanation why technically the state still isn’t paying the priests.
According to a joint communique issued after Tsipras’s statements, the two sides will set up a fund – within the framework of law voted through by the former New Democracy government of then-Premier Antonis Samaras – to manage and develop property claimed by both the Church and the state since 1952, along with any other assets the Church voluntarily transfers to this fund. The revenues and obligations from the property development will be equally divided among the two sides, said Kathimerini in a report on the quid pro quo deal.
“What we and this agreement are showing is our intention to move a step forward, with mutual respect for one another,” the Archbishop said.
The agreement is expected to be a benchmark for further talks between the government and church which Ieronymos will present to the Holy Synod, which will meet with Tsipras’ Cabinet later to discuss how to proceed.