Tsipras, arch­bishop strike deal

Ierony­mos ac­cepts ‘re­li­gious neu­tral­ity’ in ex­change for the state’s guar­an­tee of cler­gy­men’s wages

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras and Arch­bishop Ierony­mos agreed yes­ter­day that the gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to guar­an­tee the wages of the coun­try’s 9,000 cler­gy­men and, in ex­change, the Church of Greece will not op­pose pro­pos­als to make the state “re­li­gion neu­tral.”

In a joint tele­vised ad­dress, Tsipras re­ferred to a “his­toric agree­ment” with the Greek Or­tho­dox Church as part of a con­sti­tu­tional re­vi­sion aimed, among oth­ers, at chang­ing re­la­tions be­tween church and state.

Tsipras said that cler­ics will no longer be con­sid­ered civil ser­vants and will there­fore be ex­cluded from the of­fi­cial pay­roll, the Sin­gle Pay­ments Au­thor­ity. How­ever, the state will still pay an­nu­ally the same amount it pays for their wages to the Church as a sub­sidy, he added.

The an­nual sub­sidy of around 189 mil­lion eu­ros will be paid into a spe­cial Church fund and will be used ex­clu­sively to pay the clergy.

More­over, ac­cord­ing to a joint com­mu­nique is­sued af­ter Tsipras’s state­ments, the two sides will set up a fund – within the frame­work of law voted through by the con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment of Antonis Sa­ma­ras – to man­age and de­velop prop­erty claimed by both the Church and the state since 1952, along with any other as­sets the Church vol­un­tar­ily trans­fers to this fund. The rev­enues and obli­ga­tions from the prop­erty devel­op­ment will be equally di­vided among the two sides.

“What we and this agree­ment are show­ing is our in­ten­tion to move a step for­ward, with mu­tual re­spect for one an­other,” the arch­bishop said.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­mu­nique, these pro­pos­als will serve as a blue­print for fur­ther talks be­tween the two sides. Ierony­mos will present the con­tents of the agree­ment to the Holy Synod to­day. Tsipras said the cab­i­net and the Holy Synod will con­vene at a later stage to de­cide whether to ap­prove the pro­pos­als.

Mean­while, New Democ­racy leader Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis pre­sented his con­sti­tu­tional re­view pro­pos­als yes­ter­day to a meet­ing of his party’s par­lia­men­tary group. The con­ser­va­tive leader pro­posed changes to ar­ti­cles re­fer­ring to the im­mu­nity of min­is­ters, the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary from the gov­ern­ment, the es­tab­lish­ment of pri­vate univer­si­ties and the elec­tion of the pres­i­dent di­rectly by the peo­ple if Par­lia­ment fails twice to do so.

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