Archbishop Ieronymos made it clear Friday that no aspects of a tentative deal between him and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would be approved without the backing of the Holy Synod, while Education and Religious Affairs Minister Costas Gavroglou insisted that the salaries of clerics were safe.
“The salary status, insurance and pension rights of clerics are secured,” Gavroglou said after a meeting with the archbishop Friday, referring to a proposal for the clerics to be moved off the state payroll and instead be paid from a fund to be managed by the Church of Greece.
Ieronymos indicated that he believed a solution would be found but suggested that a difference of opinions among the 82 bishops of the synod was to be expected.
“Is it possible for there to be a concurrence of opinion, a meeting of minds in such a large body as the [church] hierarchy?” he remarked.
He also suggested, for the first time, that a challenge to his leadership might be in the making. “Do you rule out the prospect of personal ambitions or other thoughts?” he told reporters.
Earlier in the day, during a meeting with Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Katerina Papakosta, the archbishop said clerics’ approval would be sought before any changes.
“Nothing will be done if the priests do not consent; we do not want them to lose their rights. Nothing will happen if it is not accepted by the Holy Synod, the hierarchy and the state,” he said.
Papakosta said she “welcomed the beginning of the dialogue to resolve the issues that have affected us for almost a century. We can continue together with distinct roles while respecting the role of the other.”
Next week the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is to convene in Istanbul to discuss the tentative deal between Tsipras and Ieronymos.