Greece: true separation of church and state?
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece announced on Tuesday the separation of church and state in the country. Around 10,000 priests and Church employees will be taken off the state payroll. Although the agreement claims to put an end to a prolonged dispute, Greek commentators are not satisfied.
Only a small step in the right direction
To Vima Online would have liked to see more progress on the issue:
“Obviously it is a slight improvement on the current status quo, but it is a far cry from Syriza's declared position in favour of a complete Church-State separation. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of Greeks espouse the Orthodox faith. In a contemporary democracy where the rule is religious freedom, however, the Orthodox Church cannot have a dominant position in public and social life. This has been demonstrated in various ways, including clashes over religion courses in schools, the privileged treatment of Orthodox places of worship, and the plethora of religious icons in public places.”
Both sides can sell the move as a success
In Protagon's view the main problem is the lack of a clear financial separation between state and church:
“The archbishop and the prime minister have reached an agreement on the economic aspects and can be satisfied. The Church will claim that it is securing its financial autonomy; the government will say it has taken a step towards separation. This is a long-standing demand of Syriza supporters. ... The prime minister and archbishop declared that members of the clergy will no longer be paid as public servants but through a special account managed by the Church but financed by the state. Some are trying to cast this as the separation of state and church. And in theory this could end up happening in the future - if someone [on the state side] decides to stop putting money into that account.”