With atheist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras moving toward separating Church and State over the objections of the Holy Synod it was revealed that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent him a letter last year protesting potential Constitutional changes diluting the Church’s authority.
In his two-page letter dated Aug. 1, 2017, which was made public on Nov. 26 by the orthodoxia.info website, Bartholomew said that the Phanar objected to plans to remove references in the Constitution to the Patriarchate and its jurisdiction, as well as references to the Patriarchal Act of 1928 in which his office granted the Greek Church temporary administrative powers over 36 Bishoprics.
The changes would alienate the office of the Patriarch which is based on Constantinople, the letter said.
That came out as Education and Religious Affairs Minister Costas Gavroglou was to travel to meet the Patriarch to discuss growing tension over the so-called Religious Neutrality deal that Tsipras struck with the head of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos, without informing the Patriarchate or the Holy Synod.
Tsipras said he would proceed despite the Holy Synod opposing the scheme that would move 9,000 clerics off state payrolls to the Church, but with their salaries still paid by the government.
Speaking to Antenna TV, Bishop Daniel of Kaisariani said Ieronymos committed “breaches that cannot be erased.” “In the life of the church nothing is forgotten,” he said.
Bishop Maximos of Ioannina told state-run ERT that Ieronymos was being unfairly treated and that his critics owe him an apology.
Tsipras said it’s up to the government – him – how the country’s priests are paid, now on state rolls, as he wants the Church of Greece to pay them – with state subsidies.
Tsipras’ office said “the payment status of Church officials is, in any case, the responsibility and decision of the state,” adding the government will soon prepare draft legislation on the main points of the deal.