“The matter of the Church of Greece is one for the Greek people and not for a minister,” Archbishop Ieronymos, the head of the Church of Greece, wrote in a letter addressed to Greek Education Minister Nikos Filis.
“Your holiness,” answered the minister, “these matters are the subject of scientific dialogue, as well as a broader public dialogue, which should be carried out in a sober and calm manner so that we can all learn from our mistakes.”
The supposed tensions arising every now and then between the education minister and the Church of Greece never fail to draw the public’s attention. Besides, the Greek people’s sensitivity when it comes to religious and education issues – which comprise their national identity – is known all too well.
This time around, however, the “clash” (the use of inverted commas in this case is deliberate) was not about the public display of a saint’s skull or morning prayers at schools, but about religion classes.
At least that’s where it all started, before stretching all the way to the alleged role played by the Church during the 1967-74 military dictatorship, ultimately taking on a dimension that can hardly be defined as timely and urgent.
Regarding the issue of religion lessons, in particular, Filis enjoys the support of a large portion of society. There is such an appetite for some kind of change in this country – given that real reforms are still not on the agenda – that even a move to modernize an essentially defunct course by giving it new impetus, making it less based on the chatechism and reinforcing the children’s love for learning, was received with relief. Matters relating to the ministerial decision per se, such as whether new textbooks are actually available in order to implement the changes, were hardly addressed.
And so time goes by. The publicity stirred by the issue is great and the administration has been relieved from the headache of tougher issues once comprising the core of the Left’s positions, such as the separation of church and state.
Meanwhile, there is never any talk regarding the law exempting church and monastery properties from the unified property tax, known as ENFIA, (Law 4223 had approved in 2014).
So, to cut a long story short: silence reigns when it comes to any brave breakthrough that could change the country’s social, political and economic status quo, while there is plenty of noise when it comes to sources of painless conflict, which offers some sense of relief.