Archbishop Ieronymos on revisions in church-state relations: Not an agreement yet, but an intent to agree

8 November 2018
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The influential prelate of the Church of Greece on Wednesday clarified that “an agreement is one thing, and an intent to agree is another”, less than a day after a high-profile announcement, along with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, revising church-state relations in the predominately Christian Orthodox country.

The highlight of the still provision agreement removes the Church’s clergymen from the state’s civil service payroll, envisions an annual “subsidy” paid by the state to the latter equally the current budget outlay, while also returning a portion of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece’s estate – a chunk of which was appropriate by the state a year before WWII broke out in the country, 1939.

In a bid to allay reactions from within the Church’s hierarchy and by its rank-and-file clergy, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos said the “intent and good will by both the Church and state is to find a solution to problems that have for years remained unsolved … that’s what we wanted to do, to find a process. The first (step) was the announcement, which was forwarded to the Holy Synod for its approval.”

Ieronymos added that after the Holy Synod – comprising the Church’s Metropolitans (bishops) – a “major effort” will have to be exerted to persuade clergymen that the proposed agreement is positive.

The current state outlay for Church of Greece clergymen exceeds 200 million euros annual, with critics pointing to state coffers financing an organized religion, albeit the predominant faith of the roughly 11 million citizens in the country. Conversely, the Church has long argued that the arrangement stems from the 1939 appropriation of a portion of its estate at below market value.

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