Archbishop Ieronymos Questions Tsipras' Call for Religious Neutrality


FILE - Alexis Tsipras with Archbishop Ieronymos. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Christos Bonis, file)

ATHENS – With atheist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras calling for separation of Church and State more than 3 ½ years after he promised, Archbishop Ieronymos wants the Premier to explain what “religious neutrality,” the government wants really means.

“We will have to clarify first what we mean by religious neutrality. I believe the opportunity will be given, I will cooperate,” he said after a meeting of the Church's Holy Synod, Kathimerini reported. “I don't know what the Prime Minister means, he will tell us what he means,” the Archbishop added.

He distinguished between religious neutrality exists in Germany, where he said the Church and the State cooperate smoothly, and France, where the two institutions are at odds. “I wouldn't like that,” he said.

“All this, the constitutional revision and our differences, are an opportunity for us to decide on things that will benefit our people,” he added.

tsipras had delicately skirted confrontation with the Church and Archbishop Ieronymos and even sacked an Education Minister who sought to secularize religious classes in schools and for religions other than Greek Orthodoxy to be taught.

But now, with polls showing he has plummeted after reneging on anti-austerity promises, the Premier is seeking to cause a divide in the major rival New Democracy Conservatives and wants to use the Church as a wedge to drive the Conservatives further right, critics have said.