Gov’t and Church on collision course over FYROM name dispute


A wedge has been driven between the leftist-led coalition and the Church of Greece after the latter reiterated its objection Wednesday to the use of the term “Macedonia” by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as part of the solution to its name dispute with Greece. 

In response to the unanimous decision by the Holy Synod on Wednesday not to “back down” from its opposition to the use of the word in any form, government officials likened the stance of the Church on the issue to that of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. 

“Has the Church’s leadership decided to align with the neo-Nazi entity of Golden Dawn?” government sources asked, accusing the Church of going beyond the bounds of its authority by involving itself in state and serious foreign policy matters. At the same time, sources said, the Church “doesn’t want the state to get involved it its own holy matters.” 

The Church was also accused of failing to have discussed the issue with the government and for not asking for a briefing on the progress of negotiations. The sources also called upon the Church “to inform us what name it wants the government to negotiate for.” 

For his part, Archbishop Ieronymos said that the Church has every reason to take an interest in the issue as it is not just a political and national matter but an ecclesiastical one as well, echoing the concerns of the Holy Synod that the use of the term – either as part of a composite name or otherwise – could bolster the claim to the term by FYROM’s self-declared “Church of Macedonia.” 

In its decision Wednesday, the Holy Synod said the Church has “fought since antiquity for the Greekness of Macedonia with the the blood of its clergy and its words” and called on the government to heed its concerns, “which are the concerns of Ecumenical Hellenism.” 

Ieronymos however said that the Church will not take part in or back the demonstrations that are planned to take place later in the month to protest any compromise by Greece on the name issue.