Greek Education Minister Costas Gavroglou, who on Tuesday met with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios in Istanbul, has voiced his optimism that the two sides can come to an understanding over the government’s recent proposals to relax church-state ties.
Gavroglou described talks with the Patriarch, during which he reportedly analyzed all aspects of last month’s tentative deal between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Greek Archbishop Ieronymos, as “very fertile.”
The leftist minister expressed his optimism that the patriarchate will lift any reservations over the proposed measures which foresee moving clerics off the state payroll, jointly developing disputed real estate assets and establishing a “religion neutral” state.
Gavroglou’s visit was seen as a continuation of the government’s effort to engage with religious authorities after the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece failed to endorse the deal.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has jurisdiction over Crete, parts of northern Greece and the Dodecanese, has already voiced its opposition to the deal.
Its objections were relayed to the government during the previous visit by Gavroglou to Istanbul on November 11, while the Church of Crete has also expressed its opposition.