Church property stirs vigorous debate

Ownership and exploitation of land is a means of exercising power, which the state usually translates into actions such as including or excluding areas from town plans, legalization (or otherwise) of illegal construction, or the declassification of forested areas for other use. It uses these methods as a way of winning votes or, more rarely, of exercising environmental and zoning policy. The Church of Greece owns at least 90,000 hectares of open land – another means of exercising power that, judging from the result, enjoys the tolerance and even blessing of the state, which for 18 years has declined to enact a law passed by the Greek Parliament on monastic property. The only registration of this property, which includes forests and pastures, found that it totaled 85,500 hectares, according to the state, or 130,000 hectares, according to the Church. In 1987 the «Tritsis law» provided for the transfer of these lands to the state, but since then, and due to the Church’s strong resistance, this law has remained inactive, unlike the Church itself, which has been selling off land even where it does even not have proper ownership papers, developing business activities or even trying to build on it – fortunately, not always with success. It has also been trying to have the forest areas under its jurisdiction declassified, and in other areas it has been trying to thwart access by municipal or state organizations.

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