An agreement to continue paying Greek clerics, but as functionaries of the Church of Greece, not as civil servants, is “mutually beneficial,” the Education and Religious Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday following talks on Tuesday between Minister Costas Gavroglou and church officials.
However, the government appeared to make a concession to clerics, who are concerned about no longer being characterized as civil servants, as their paychecks are to be paid according to the same provisions as other public servants and on the same day.
Despite the concession, the Church still appears to have reservations on signing off on the plan, with the final decision expected to be taken by the Holy Synod in March at the earliest.
In comments to Kathimerini, Bishop Hierotheos of Nafpaktos said the Holy Synod was determined that the labor status of priests should not change, noting that the document presented by Gavroglou on Tuesday indicated that the government has not fundamentally changed its stance.
The discussions are on a plan agreed in principle last year between Archbishop Ieronymos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to move clerics off the state’s payroll and jointly develop disputed real estate assets.
The key benefit for the state is that the removal of clerics from its payroll – they would be paid from a state subsidy given to the Church – would clear the way for 10,000 state hirings.
A joint statement issued on Tuesday by the Church of Greece following talks with a delegation from the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate said that the two institutions were “in full agreement… on the preservation of the current salary status of the Orthodox clergy.”
They also oppose a proposed revision of the Constitution referring to a “religiously neutral” state.