The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece on Tuesday appointed a committee that will discuss in detail a contentious proposal by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Archbishop Ieronymos to loosen the close ties between the state and the church.
Although the majority of clerics on the eight-member committee are either in favor of the deal or neutral, any final decision on the various aspects of the tentative deal mooted by the premier and the archbishop would have to secure the backing of the 82-member Holy Synod.
In an emergency session last month, the synod rejected the initiative, expressing particular objections to a proposal for clerics to be moved off the state payroll and to be paid instead via an annual state subsidy to be managed by the church.
The key concern expressed by most was the potential loss of their status as Greek civil servants.
Speaking to Kathimerini on Tuesday, one bishop indicated that the Holy Synod’s stance on the payroll issue “is binding for the committee.”
The aim of the committee is to consult with government officials and compile a final proposal based on the 15 points of the original agreement presented by Tsipras and the archbishop on November 6.
Committee members will be able to summon other clerics and experts from other fields to express their views on aspects of the deal. For instance, the resolution of a longstanding property dispute between the church and the state is another sensitive area broached by the deal.
Ieronymos, for his part, appeared optimistic that the debate now expected to get under way between the church and the government would lead to approval of his initial agreement with Tsipras.
“We have the sense that we will proceed, that the Hierarchy will adopt [the deal], as none of us, neither the first nor the last, is aspiring toward personal satisfaction,” he was quoted as saying.