Tectonic shifts in the political landscape caused by Greece’s economic meltdown have fomented a tacit alliance between Orthodox Church leaders and the secular left-wing SYRIZA party, analysts say.
Poised to win the next parliamentary election, whenever that may take place, SYRIZA chief Alexis Tsipras appears keen to build bridges with the deeply conservative Church, which, controversially for some, remains one of the most influential institutions in the debt-hit country.
In response to SYRIZA’s rise, analysts say, Archbishop Ieronymos wants to establish a platform for discussion with the main opposition, like it has with other parties.
Such rapprochement may come as a surprise considering the two sides’ differences on a series of key issues, including the separation of Church and state – a perennial demand of the liberal faction of Greek society.
Tsipras is not married to his longtime partner and mother of his two children, who have not been christened. But after the SYRIZA leader’s father Pavlos Tsipras died last month, Ieronymos officiated at the funeral.
The two sides have recently found common ground in their social work and criticism of Greece’s foreign creditors. Leftist officials have also welcomed the clergy’s denigration of the neofascist Golden Dawn party.
“We are very lucky that Ieronymos is archbishop at this difficult moment,” Nikos Pappas, a senior SYRIZA figure, told Kathimerini.
Orthodoxy is recognized by the Greek Constitution as the country’s official religion. Surveys suggest about 80 percent of Greeks believe in God. This makes them among Europe’s strongest Christians, although many are infrequent churchgoers.