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Greek Clerics Fear Church-State Separation, Being Taken off Payrolls

October 5, 2018

ATHENS – The Association of Greek Clerics said it wants meetings with the heads of political parties in Parliament to talk about the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA’s apparent plans to push ahead with separation of Church and State as part of a Constitutional review.

The priests are especially worried that some 9,000 of them won’t be paid by the state anymore and they were said to be concerned about the Westernization of the Church, which Kathimerini said was brought up during a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece on Oct. 3.

Bishop Ioannis of Lagada said he was upset that Greeks were being alienated from their Orthodox Christian roots due to ideas and lifestyles coming from Western countries, the report said.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, an atheist, said when he came into power in 2015 he wanted separation of the Church and the government but had mostly held back after challenges from Bishop Ieronymos and church leaders.

Earlier, Greece’s National Union of Theologians said it wanted teachers not to conduct classes in religion as a protest in changes introduced by SYRIZA to make the curriculum more secular.
In a letter sent to directors of primary and secondary education schools, the union said teachers have the right to abstain from classes following a ruling earlier this year by the Council of State deeming the changes unconstitutional. It said teachers can still teach the subject using the previous syllabus and textbook, said Kathimerini.

Education Minister Costas Gavroglou said the union’s action was “reactionary and obscurantist,” and that responsibility for the school curriculum lies exclusively with the state and that teachers have no say. “In our democracy there are rules and laws. No one is above the law,” he said.
The ministry has been trying for two years to change religion classes over the objections of the Greek Orthodox Church with Tsipras alternately pushing for separation of Church and State and backing away from it.

Former education minister Nikos Filis was ousted after losing a stand-off with the Church over his insistence religions other than Orthodoxy be taught and that religion classes should be secular in nature.

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