Ieronymos accepts ‘religious neutrality’ in exchange for clergymen’s wages


Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Archbishop Ieronymos agreed on Tuesday that the government will continue to guarantee the wages of the country’s some 9,000 clergymen and, in exchange, the Church of Greece will not oppose proposals to make the state “religion neutral.”

In a joint televised address, Tsipras referred to a “historic agreement” with the Greek Orthodox Church as part of a constitutional revision aimed, among others, at changing relations between church and state.

Tsipras said that clerics will no longer be considered civil servants and will therefore be excluded from the official payroll, the Single Payments Authority. However, the state will still pay annually the same amount it pays for their wages to the Church as a subsidy, he added.

The annual subsidy of around 189 million euros will be paid into a special Church fund and will be used exclusively to pay the clergy.

Moreover, according to a joint communique issued after Tsipras’s statements, the two sides will set up a fund – within the framework of law voted through by the conservative government of Antonis Samaras – to manage and develop property claimed by both the Church and the state since 1952, along with any other assets the Church voluntarily transfers to this fund. The revenues and obligations from the property development will be equally divided among the two sides.

“What we and this agreement are showing is our intention to move a step forward, with mutual respect for one another,” the archbishop said.

According to the communique, these proposals will serve as a blueprint for further talks between the two sides. Ieronymos will present the contents of the agreement to the Holy Synod Wednesday. Tsipras said the cabinet and the Holy Synod will convene at a later stage to decide whether to approve the proposals.

Meanwhile, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented his constitutional review proposals on Tuesday to a meeting of his party’s parliamentary group.

The conservative leader proposed changes to articles referring to the immunity of ministers, the independence of the judiciary from the government, the establishment of private universities and the election of the president directly by the people if Parliament fails twice to do so.