Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church was put on the defensive on Wednesday after it emerged that it had secured an exemption from capital controls squeezing the rest of the debt-ridden country.
The Holy Synod, the executive arm of the Church, said the measure “was designed to avert paralysis in [its] charitable work.”
In contrast to most Greeks, who can only withdraw 1,680 euros a month from their bank accounts, dioceses have a monthly allowance of 10,000 euros and the archdiocese in Athens can tap up to 20,000 euros a month.
Sarcastic remarks about “saintly cash dispensers” working “miracles” quickly spread on Greek social media but the Church said such criticism was “irresponsible.”
The Church on Wednesday insisted that the measure applied only to institutions, not clerics, who remain subject to the same restrictions as the rest of the population.
“The monthly limit was increased because there was difficulty in paying regular and emergency benefits to Greek and foreign needy persons and families,” the Synod said.
In another statement, the Finance Ministry said international organizations and foreign charity groups were also entitled to the same exemptions.
However, a source in the Greek Catholic Church on Wednesday said it had asked the ministry for the privilege but without response.