ATHENS – A showdown is looming when Greek Bishops and the Holy Synod is set for a Nov. 16 meeting over a tentative agreement that Archbishop Ieronymos reached with atheist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras not to oppose separation of Church and State if the government pays the salaries of 9,000 clerics after moving them off state payrolls.
Under the agreement, the priests, who are now paid directly by the government, would be paid by the Church of Greece – which would get the money from the government.
Although that doesn’t reduce any state spending, Tsipras – trailing badly in polls with elections required by October, 2019 – said the move would allow him to hire 10,000 more workers, which critics said is a transparent attempt to buy votes, practiced by every government.
Media reports said that the Bishops oppose the deal and the agreement does not foresee cuts in the priests’ pay but they would no longer be civil servants, an idea that many clerics object to without explaining why as they would still be paid through a different method.
Among the most prominent opponents are Bishops Chrysostomos of Messinia and Anthimos of Thessaloniki said Kathimerini. Members of the Association of Greek Clergymen met with political party leaders on Nov. 14 to express their concerns.