Greek Archbishop Ieronymos on Wednesday sought to appease clerics who criticized a proposed deal announced by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that will remove them from the state payroll, saying nothing has been finalized.
“We do not have an agreement but an intention to reach an agreement,” he said after a meeting of the Holy Synod, the Church's ruling body.
“We have an announcement stating we have the intention and the good will to find a solution with the state on problems that have dragged on for a century. We all come across them every day,” he added.
Tsipras and Ieronymos agreed on Tuesday that the government will continue to guarantee the wages of the country’s some 9,000 clergymen and, in exchange, the Church of Greece will not oppose proposals to make the state “religion neutral,” as part of a constitutional revision.
Tsipras said that clerics will no longer be considered civil servants, but the state will still pay annually the same amount it pays for their wages to the Church as a subsidy. 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.
Asked by journalists on Wednesday, Ieronymos also categorically rejected claims that the state may not make regular salary payments into the special fund.
The Association of Greek Clergy issued an angry statement earlier on Wednesday saying they felt “betrayed” by those who participated in the talks without consulting with those who are “immediately affected.”
The association is particularly irked by the government's decision to strip clerics of their status as civil servants.
“The Association of Greek Clergy will fight to keep the payment of the clergy as the state's contractural obligation, in exchange for what the Church has offered to the country,” the union said in a press release.