Church fury at plan to seize coastal land

In a strongly worded statement yesterday, the Church of Greece’s ruling body expressed outrage at government plans to turn ecclesiastical property on the southern Athens coastline into public parks for the Athens 2004 Olympics. The Holy Synod described the proposed changes, which are contained in a draft presidential decree currently being drawn up by the Ministry of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works, as an attempt «to pillage Church property.» The Church property in the prime suburbs of Vari, Vouliagmeni and Kavouri were earmarked for the construction of schools, hospitals and orphanages, the Holy Synod said, stressing that these projects enjoyed government approval. The Church had also expressed the intention of building hotels on the land in question in view of the Olympics. «This is an attempt to usurp the Church’s last remaining property assets without any compensation and in a totally arbitrary fashion,» the statement said. «The Church cannot accept this behavior.» The Church remains Greece’s largest private landowner.