mercoledì, Dicembre 8

Greece, State and Church: A marriage of convenience? Athens

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Ten years ago, Professor Alivizatos along with the Hellenic League for Human Rights, proposed a law draft which was not passed by the Greek Parliament and met the Greek Church disapproval However, it is indeed interesting that several of the individual points of the proposal passed. Which are they?

  • The non-exemption of clerics and monks from their military obligation
  • Establishment by law of the cremation practice
  • The regional metropolitan priest is not allowed to be involved to licensing churches and houses of prayer
  • The students’ confession within schools was banned. Instead, it remains mandatory catechetical teaching of religious lesson.
  •  The state undertook at its own expense the construction of a mosque in Athens.
  • The already existed religious minorities were recognised.

“Although, the Church of Greece has not become a private law entity which would have meant losing the benefits of a legal entity of public Law”, he stresses.  As a legal entity of public law, the Greek Church has privileges related to procedures and the bishops are appointed with presidential decrees.

Is the Constitution’s revision a prerequisite for the separation between State and Church? N. Alivizatos explains that the revision of the Article 3 of the Constitution is not needed in order to move to a gradual separation of Church and State. Ieronymos II, the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece said recently that those who wish a separation between Church and State will regret. According to Professor Alivizatos, the Archibishop refers to the disapproval of the Greek Society which remains conservative in these issues.

What will the Separation mean? Why there is no Greek government so far to take this risk? The major issue, explains Professor Alivizatos, is the salary of the clergy, which has taken over the State since the early 50s. This is a rather practical than dogmatic issue. “The Church doesn’t trust itself for technical reasons. Furthermore, the Religious subject will be taught mainly as a History and basic philosophy of its religion and not as Confession of the Orthodox religion. The Greek State does not only pay the priests, but the Religious subject teachers who, judging from the way the subject is taught, are teachers of Orthodoxy indoctrination”.

Another question raised when discussing this complicated relation is whether the influence of the Church over the State is institutional or political? Both of them, replies Mr. Alivizatos: “A law related to the Church cannot “pass” easily without the Church’s having been asked at the first place. The reaction of the Greek Church and Society against the identity cards with no religious stated at the late 90’s is indicative”.

The economic recession with its painful effects on the Greek society has undoubtedly made the divorce between Church and State even more difficult, given the fact that the Greek Church is traditionally fond of fundraising and helping those who are in need. Nikos Alivizatos adds at this point the refugees’ crisis and the significant role of the Church helping the refugees. “The current situation explains the fact that no Greek party is willing to deal with the separation. This doesn’t mean, though, that the Church is allowed to be dogmatic”, he concludes.


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