OPINION

Panacea for all our woes… churches

So what’s this new craze that has gripped our politicians? It seems that everyone in a high public post has an urge to build a church. Some even want two. Two years ago, former parliamentary speaker Anna Psarouda-Benaki wanted to build a church in the courtyard of the Hellenic Parliament. Now, new Supreme Court President Vassileios Nikolopoulos has asked the justice minister to make two plots at the Pedion tou Areos park and at the Athens Appeals Court available for the construction of churches. What is the reason for this «church-mania»? There is certainly no shortage of churches in Greece. Indeed there are more churches in Athens than bus stops. Also, the Metropolitan Cathedral is just five minutes’ walk from Parliament and surely our MPs are not so busy that they cannot take the time to walk 500 meters to perform their religious duties. Moreover, demand is certainly not greater than supply. Large, imposing churches across the city fill up just twice a year: at Christmas and Easter. The other 363 days of the year they are open and empty, and anyone can go in to pray, almost in privacy. In contrast, there is great demand for places of worship of other religions, which so far have had to make do with rented basements and ground-floor spaces in downtown Athens. Any rationally thinking state would first try to meet the needs of those citizens who have nowhere to pray before considering the possibility of erecting more Greek Orthodox churches. On the other hand, there is very little free space available in Athens. A couple of parks and a handful of courtyards belonging to public buildings are all that are left. Does it make sense to cover these with concrete too, even if it is blessed? Some may argue that the churches are meant as offerings by the elected. But offerings, if they are to be of any value, are supposed to be erected at the person’s own expense and on his/her private property. Greek citizens of whatever religion do not pay taxes and give up valuable land to satisfy the religious angst of public servants, but to ensure that justice is better served. And speaking of justice, we still have a long way to go. The European Court of Justice is examining a growing number of Greek Supreme Court decisions, the Athens Bar Association has reverted to extreme measures (such as not attending court when a particular judge is presiding), while the trial-fixing scandal continues to fester. Perhaps the problems in the justice system are nothing that a prayer cannot remedy. If so, then maybe a few new churches will save us.