Recent comments by Education Minister Nikos Filis, who questioned the role of the Church during the 1967-74 military dictatorship, have irked Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, according to sources Monday who nevertheless said that the premier still backs his minister’s plan to reform religious education.
Tsipras is said to be wary that the spat – Filis’s comments prompted a fierce reaction from Archbishop Ieronymos – could influence the proceedings of the upcoming Holy Synod, which is expected to take a stand on the ministry’s decision to tweak religion classes at schools. The idea is that these will no longer be taught on the basis of catechism, but on purely informative and educational grounds.
Tsipras’s decision to back Filis’s plan is said to be based on polls that the majority of SYRIZA voters are in favor of the reform.
However, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the populist nationalist Independent Greeks, the junior partner in the governing coalition, is opposed to any change. Kammenos is scheduled to holds talks with Ieronymos on Wednesday.
On Sunday President Prokopis Pavlopoulos appeared to come out in defense of the Church.
“The Church has always been present in the nation’s struggle, like it has in all struggles for liberty, democracy and social justice,” Pavlopoulos said in a statement on the anniversary of the liberation of Tripolitsa in the Greeks’ 1821 war of independence against Ottoman Turks.
As an opposition party, SYRIZA had long campaigned on a pledge to forge a separation between Church and state.