Ten­ta­tive deal with Church fu­els un­ease

Arch­bishop says agree­ment de­pends on cler­ics amid protests as gov’t her­alds 10,000 civil ser­vice hires

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

In the wake of Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment by Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras and Arch­bishop Ierony­mos of a ten­ta­tive deal to change the way cler­ics are paid and re­solve a long-stand­ing prop­erty dis­pute, both sides elab­o­rated yes­ter­day, though much re­mained un­clear.

Amid in­di­ca­tions of ob­jec­tions within the Church, Ierony­mos said a firm deal was still a way off. “We do not have an agree­ment but an in­ten­tion to reach an agree­ment,” he said af­ter a ses­sion of the Holy Synod, adding that the coun­try’s 82 bish­ops will dis­cuss the mat­ter soon, prob­a­bly be­fore Christ­mas.

As re­gards the Church’s as­sets, he said ref­er­ences to ex­ces­sive wealth were a “myth.” An agree­ment, which fore­sees a joint fund to man­age the church’s prop­erty, would be “for the mu­tual ben­e­fit of the peo­ple and the Church.” Any deal would have to have the back­ing of cler­ics, he added.

How­ever there are ob­jec­tions. The As­so­ci­a­tion of Greek Cler­gy­men called for a stop to the “shameful” agree­ment. Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­arch Vartholo­maios is said to have asked for fur­ther de­tails about the plan. (The Churches of the Dode­canese is­lands and Crete fall un­der his ju­ris­dic­tion.)

The gov­ern­ment also elab­o­rated on its in­ten­tions, with spokesman Dim­itris Tzanakopou­los say­ing that mov­ing some 10,000 cler­ics off the state pay­roll would “free up” space for an­other 10,000 pub­lic hir­ings. The hires could in­clude doc­tors and teach­ers, he said, con­ced­ing that they could only be done from 2020 (when it is likely SYRIZA will no longer be in power fol­low­ing elec­tions next year).

The bid to re­solve a long­stand­ing prop­erty dis­pute is a “his­toric ini­tia­tive” that has not been un­der­taken since the cre­ation of the Greek state, Tzanakopou­los said, call­ing for op­po­si­tion sup­port. Con­ser­va­tive New Democ­racy ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of “clumsy backpedal­ing” from over-am­bi­tious promises to sep­a­rate Church and State.

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