The decision on how clerics will be paid lies solely with the state, the prime minister's office said on Friday, responding to an announcement by the Church of Greece's Hierarchy that it would not accept losing their status as civil servants.
The Hierarchy announced earlier it had voted to remain in the state payroll, essentially rejecting a key element of the tentative deal with the government on changing church-state relations.
Alexis Tsipras's office said “the payment status of Church officials is, in any case, the responsibility and decision of the state,” adding the government will soon prepare draft legislation on the main points of a deal agreed on by the prime minister and Archbishop Ieronymos earlier this month.
The deal foresees moving clerics off the state's payroll, jointly developing disputed real estate assets and establishing a “religion neutral” state.
The draft bill will then be submitted to the Special Committee of the Standing Holy Synod before it is tabled in Parliament.
On his side, Ieronymos welcomed Tsipras's statement on the unanimous decision of the Hierarchy to continue dialog on bilateral issues, saying the cooperation between the two sides “is a further step in deepening our distinct roles in the context of serving together the interests of our people.”