To whom do we belong?

The Holy Synod leaflet that was issued to churchgoers on Sunday protesting Greece’s treatment by its international creditors has met with mixed reactions. George Papandreou’s ruling Socialist party, which signed a memorandum with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to save the country from defaulting, said that the document is «divorced from reality.» The PASOK government was obviously referring to its own reality, the reality of a near-powerless Parliament and of deep recession. The country’s Communist Party, better known here by its KKE acronym, accused the Synod of «turning reality on its head… in order to prevent people from seeing the real exit [from the crisis], adding that «the working class and the lower-income groups have never really experienced prosperity.» There is no doubt that according to KKE’s own metaphysical take on reality, the working class is innocent and without sin. Workers believe that the KKE headquarters in Perissos is the source of the one and only truth, the truth that will safely guide them to the promised end of history. The recently formed Democratic Left party steered clear of theological interpretations of reality. Party officials acknowledged that the Greek people are having a really hard time, but they did make sure to direct some vitriol at the Synod by calling upon the Church to come up with «specific initiatives and practical measures, here on Earth, to remove some of the burden from the shoulders of the suffering masses.» It was a rushed judgment on the part of the usually cautious party leader Fotis Kouvelis as the Greek Church, as an institution, has over time established a wide social network. It may be an outdated and largely ineffective one, but it does exist. The Church’s gesture challenged the politically correct stereotypes of the post-1974 era. It also raised a number of questions. First, who has the right to speak out? Does the Church have the right to address society – at least, those of us who wish to listen to what it has to say? Is the clergy exempt from the right to free speech? Why should the words of a priest be treated with greater suspicion than the words of a banker or a technocrat? Second, and more importantly, who do the people belong to? To the parties? The political clientele? The political families? The unions? The vested interests? Everyone appears to be speaking on behalf of the people; everyone claims to know what is best for us. The Church does nothing more than the other institutions and para-institutions of the nation.

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