Athens, Greek Church Agree on Conditions of Disestablishment – Joint Statement

by Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE on November 8, 2018

in Featured, Featured News, News

© Sputnik / Sergey Pyatakov

© Sputnik / Sergey Pyatakov

Sputniknews – 8/11/18

ATHENS (Sputnik) – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Archbishop Hieronymos II of Athens and All Greece agreed on the conditions for the disestablishment of church and state within the framework of constitutional reform, according to the joint statement of Greek Church and the state received by Sputnik from the prime minister’s press service.

“After a long-term, comprehensive and frank dialogue between the state and the Church, a dialogue that took place in an atmosphere of respect and understanding, we now have the opportunity to move to concerted and mutually acceptable and mutually beneficial initiatives related to streamlining our relations,” the joint statement says.

The goal is to define the framework for the settlement and resolution of historical uncertainty, and to strengthen the autonomy of the Greek church against the state, recognizing its contribution and its historical role in its birth and formation, it added.

They noted the intention to reach a “historic agreement,” which would take the form of legislative regulation.

First, the Greek state recognizes that before 1939, when Law 1731/1939 was published “forcedly,” it received church property for a compensation less than its value.

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“The Greek government recognizes that it took upon itself the payment of salaries to the clergy, in a broad sense, as compensation for the acquired church property,” the statement says.

The state and the church recognize that the clergy will not be considered civil servants in the future and, therefore, will be excluded from the single state payment authority.

At the same time, the Greek state will pay a subsidy to the church annually, the amount of which corresponds to the current salary of priests and will be adjusted in accordance with the change in average salary in the Greek state.

The church recognizes that after this agreement it will waive any other claims for the said church property.

The annual subsidy will be paid to the special fund of the church and will be earmarked exclusively for the salaries of the clergy. The agreement provides the current number of clergy and other churchpeople. Any possible increase in the number of priests will not lead to a demand to increase the volume of annual subsidies, the statement said.

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The Greek state and the church also agreed to establish a fund for the use of church property. The fund’s obligations will be shared by the state and the church on a parity basis.

On October 2, the ruling Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) introduced draft amendments to the constitution in the parliament. The initiative proposed to “modernize” article 3 and enshrine the state’s religious neutrality in law, while maintaining “recognition of the Orthodox Church as the dominant religion for historical and practical reasons.” The changes are revolutionary for a country in which 98 percent of population are Orthodox believers. On Tuesday, Tsipras met with Archbishop Hieronymos II and members of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece to discuss the reform, and the parties reached an agreement that contains 15 points and a preamble.

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