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Society

Greek Church Leaders Taking Up State Separation Deal

March 12, 2019

ATHENS – The Church of Greece Holy Synod will on March 14 begin a three-day emergency session to discuss Archbishop Ieronymos’ deal for separation from the state reached with atheist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras.

That is set to come with the end last month of the first round of talks between a special committee of clerics and the Ministry of Education and Religion and as the country’s 82 Bishops said the Synod needs their authorization to negotiate parts of the deal that would see 8,700 clerics taken off state payrolls to those of the Church.

But their salaries would still be guaranteed by the government and in what critics said was creative sleight-of-hand, Tsipras said he would be able to hire 10,000 civil servants during an election, seen as a bid to boost his fortunes after plummeting in polls for reneging on anti-austerity promises.

Until now the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, which has jurisdiction over several regions of the Church in Greece, were both opposed to the proposals to move the clerics off state payrolls with one Church source who wasn’t identified telling Kathimerini that it’s a “red line” which they won’t cross.

Tsipras has said the clerics and Bishops have no say and that it’s his call, although coming more than four years after taking power when he said he would immediately move to separate Church and State before backing off on that too.

Archbishop Ieronymos, who agreed in principle last year with Tsipras has said he will back the clerics’ decision regarding the payroll changes as the proposal requires the Church sign the deal before it goes to Parliament for a vote.

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