ATHENS – The Holy Synod, the Church of Greece’s administrative body, called for continued dialogue with the state but took a strong stand against any changes in the payroll of priests and lay staff proposed by the state, it said on Wednesday.
The Church of Greece’s high administrative body, chaired by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, said it stands by the Holy Synod’s decision of November 16, 2018 to continue talks with the state, but “to retain the current payroll status for clerics and lay staff of the Church of Greece.”
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Archbishop Ieronymos had agreed in 2018 to changes that focused on the assumption of payroll by the church in exchange for lands held in trust by the state, among other issues.
In its announcement on Wednesday, the Holy Synod said the issues it will discuss with the state include the positions held by clerics and lay staff, remuneration for church property expropriated up to 1939, and the management of church property following agreements signed on September 18, 1952.
In addition, the Holy Synod expressed its “complete disagreement” with the revision of constitutional articles referring, among others, to the close relationship of church and state and the use of a religious oath for the president of the republic and other officials assuming office. It also expressed the hope that “the next parliament term will not abolish or amend the constitutional articles” that relate to “how the nation expresses itself culturally and socially, or how the family is protected,” it said, referring to the same articles (3, 13.5, 21.1, 33.2 and 59.1-2).
The Holy Synod said it would complete its work on Thursday.
Education Ministry criticises church leaders over rejection of deal
The Holy Synod’s decision to reject an agreement between the Church of Greece and the government is “an unpleasant surprise,” the Ministry of Education, Research and Religion said on Wednesday.
The Church of Greece’s administration rejected a deal that would have removed the responsibility for clergy and lay personnel wages from the government, and took a stance against the separation of state and church that could have been reflected by amendments in the constitution.
“Today’s decision by the Church hierarchy is an unpleasant surprise for the majority of our people, for representatives of the state, intellectuals and clerics who believe in the need for defining anew the roles of church and state to the benefit of the Church itself, of society and of the state’s secular nature,” the Ministry said in its announcement.
It added that “in a democracy, the dialogue between church and state cannot be carried out along inflexible lines and barren negations,” and condemned the decision that it said was not provided with any explanation.
“The historic agreement of November 6, 2018 announced jointly by the prime minister and the archbishop is the only serious and applicable proposal for the delineation of the relationship between the state and the church that was publicised and which provided the foundation for the negotiations that followed in the next months. The government wants solutions that will open a new chapter in the church-state relations,” it stressed.
The Ministry also criticised the church leaders for not providing any alternative plan or counter-proposal, and of refusing to discuss the issue of clerical and lay staff salaries.