With his office suggesting that he may move unilaterally on the controversial issue of removing clerics on the state payroll, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will reportedly seek to capitalize on the latest disagreement between church and state by presenting it as a leftist cause.
According to some commentators, Tsipras has, for now at least, come out on top following the turmoil created within the church in the wake of the tentative deal he struck with Archbishop Ieronymos to take Greek priests off the state payroll.
The deal, which came under severe criticism from large swaths of the clergy, was ultimately rejected on Friday by the Holy Synod, which called for more discussion.
In its statement, the synod said it “insists on the existing pay status of clerics and secular employees of the Church of Greece.” Priests object to being removed from the state payroll amid fears of losing their status as civil servants.
The rejection came despite the appeals by Ieronymos, whose authority was placed in doubt for the first time since he became archbishop of Athens and all Greece 10 years ago.
According to some clerics, Ieronymos allegedly overstepped his authority by striking a deal, albeit a tentative one.
“Ieronymos cannot express the church himself, he went beyond the scope of his authority,” said the Bishop of Piraeus Seraphim.
Speaking to Skai TV on Saturday, the bishop said the deal revealed the government’s true authoritarian colors and held Tsipras and his junior coalition partner Panos Kammenos responsible.
“They tried to trap the church by throwing us off of the payroll. We will fight till the end,” he said, noting that the future stance of Kammenos, the leader of the nationalist Independent Greeks party, will be key to developments.