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Tsipras plans to separate Greek Church from state

“The Church has always been, is, and will be the mother of the Greek people,” the head of the Greek Church affirms in response.

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It is being reported by the Greek newspaper Kathimerini that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras intends to begin the process of officially separating the Greek Orthodox Church from the Greek state and revising the relevant article of the Greek constitution, reports OrthoChristian.com.

At least 90 percent of the Greek population belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church, which is accorded the status of “prevailing religion” by the state constitution. Salaries and pensions for Church clergy are covered by the Greek state at rates comparable to teachers.

Tsipras, no stranger to controversy and animosity with the venerable Church, and his advisers are of course aware that such an initiative is likely to bring strong negative reactions from the Church’s bishops, clergy, and faithful, but he believes he will be able to manage the situation, just as he did with the Macedonia situation!

The move is not likely to get the general population’s approval either.

According to a 2016 ProRata survey, 46 percent of the Greek public wants the government to stay tied to the Greek Orthodox Church and 38% wants to keep the existing status where they are aligned unofficially. 42 percent said that the state should continue to take care of priests’ salaries and pensions, although 40 percent responded otherwise, the poll showed, as reported by the National Herald.

Nevertheless, it is reported that Tsipras will present his plan for revising the constitution and separating the Church and state within the next month, ahead of the proposal expected from SYRIZA in October.

The revision of the constitution and the agreement reached between Greece and Macedonia to change the latter’s name are the two main points of contention between the leftist SYRIZA and the center-right New Democracy party in the run-up to the European Parliament elections next spring, and the expected early elections for the Greek Parliament, which may occur much earlier than the scheduled date of next autumn.

It is believed that Tsipras is merely trying to score political points here against his rival, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who opposes the separation of the Church from the state.

The initiative will be presented as “progressive,” which Tsipras hopes will draw the support of the centrist Movement for Change (“Kinima Allagis“) party.

Furthermore, Tsipras, an atheist, is not worried about a confrontation with the Church. He is fairly regularly called out for his damaging, liberal politics by the fiery hierarchs of the ancient Greek Orthodox Church.

In late 2016, Metropolitan Ambrose of Kalavryta wrote an open letter to Tsipras, condemning him for comparing the 1821 Greek Revolution with the 1959 Cuban Revolution, which he called a national crime and shame, simultaneously criticizing the extravagance of the Prime Minister’s “unnecessary” trip to Cuba for Fidel Castro’s funeral, as OrthoChristian.com reports.

The same metropolitan slammed him not long after for his “goal of destroying the Greek Orthodox Church,” as evidenced by government policies such as legalized same-sex unions. He also calls him out for shameful behavior at Orthodox services.

In September 2017, the monks of Mt. Athos, a semi-autonomous monastic republic in Greece and the spiritual center of the Orthodox Church behind Jerusalem, protested Tsipras’ planned visit, calling him an “antichrist.”

However, Tsipras reasons that the government has formed an operational relationship with Church leadership, as evidenced by the adoption of the deal concerning the naming of Macedonia.

SYRIZA’s own project on the separation of Church and state was published about a year ago. he project provides:

  1. That Church and state discretion are fully established with full respect for the Orthodox Church and its historical role;
  2. The explicit fixing of the religious neutrality of the state, recognizing Orthodoxy as an historical religion;
  3. The obligation to guarantee a single political oath for president, prime minister, legislators, judges, and other public officials.

The primate of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, also spoke out against plans to separate the Church and state in 2016, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.

The archbishop stated at a meeting of the hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church that such a decision cannot be made by any one political party, but rather by the parliament as a whole: “Any amendment to the constitution is the prerogative of the Parliament, so the Church will not conduct a dialogue with the government, but with the Parliamentary Commission which will include representatives of all the parties the people voted for.”

Moreover, he affirmed that the Church will not make such an initiative, and will never separate itself from its beloved children: “The Church cannot on its own initiative ask for separation from its people, as is now being sought. The Church has always been, is, and will be the mother of the Greek people.”

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Germany Returning Migrants to Greece

Germany’s policy contradicts claims that the migrants are “war refugees,” because if that were the case, they’d seek asylum at the nearest, non-wartorn country.

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Via Infowars Europe:


Germany will soon send back migrants to Greece if they had already applied for asylum there.

The two countries made the deal at the behest of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose coalition government is on shaky ground due to increased opposition to her immigration policies.

“EU law states that refugees should apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach, but Germany has typically allowed newcomers with open applications elsewhere to reside in the country as it examines their claim,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “In practice, very few ever leave Germany, even if they fail to obtain asylum there.”

Germany’s policy contradicts claims that the migrants are “war refugees,” because if that were the case, they’d seek asylum at the nearest, non-wartorn country.

In fact, many of the migrants travel across multiple European countries, including Greece, to seek asylum in Germany, which under Merkel has offered comprehensive welfare to migrants.

Merkel’s recent immigration backtrack was also likely influenced by the backlash against open borders in neighboring countries, particularly Austria.

Austria has ramped up deportations under recently-appointed Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

“I’m convinced that the solution to the migrant problem lies with decent border protection and stronger help in countries of origin,” he said earlier this year.

Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries have similarly sealed off their borders to the chagrin of the EU, which had previous demanded “migrant quotas” for each member nation.

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The Greek Disaster: State Inertia and the Market Economy

In Greece we witnessed this repulsive, internally-generated tragedy in all its horrifying glory. Unfortunately we may soon see more far-reaching consequences…

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What happened in Attica, Greece, close to Athens, is without precedent. An ordinary fire, like the ones that occur in this area almost every other summer, met up with a terrible, sudden wind that turned it into real galloping inferno.

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The tragic result was 87 dead Greek citizens and more than 20 still missing. Huge questions loom on the horizon and only very limited answers are forthcoming. Are some of the lessons from this tragedy related to the wider geopolitical and political-economic questions?

Public-sector clientelism is leading to disastrous inefficiency

Why do tragedies like these occur in social environments with firmly entrenched clientelist political systems and in political entities that operate on the periphery of major, bureaucratic, modern empires? Sweden saw huge uncontrolled fires this summer. However, there was no loss of life or major disasters that befell the urban centers.

In Portugal last year — and very recently in Greece  —  scores of people died, mainly due to the inability of the state machinery to efficiently deal with the problem. The major difference between these examples is the quality of the civil service. In Greece and Portugal there is no real ethics in the public administration, which frequently fails to meet any vigorous efficiency test .

In public bureaucracies that sprout favoritism the way trees grow branches, it is very difficult to design long-term plans to handle critical and life-threatening situations. Likewise, the political system lacks the prerequisites to draw upon informed societies that are trained to be cooperative and disciplined when there is a need for coordination.

When clientelism dictates and forms the essence of the political culture, this culminates in fractured societies that are infected with spreading islands of lawlessness and limited possibilities for administrative coherence.

In Greece in particular, the deep-rooted mentality of state favoritism produces whole sectors of uncoordinated urbanization, with no respect for the environment, chaotic borough formation, and a coastline that has been brutally violated by hasty real-estate developmental schemes.

In such a social context, thorough planning becomes almost impossible and the idea of applying administrative guidelines to deal with a crisis sounds like a joke. It is essentially the political system itself that invites disasters and not any sort of physical deluge that begets them.

The need for market solutions

Clientelism and heavy state intervention in the running of the economy and society are the basic causes of inefficiency and, henceforth, administrative chaos. It appears that the process of rational choice is the fatal enemy of the dominant mentality in such systems of government. This is represented by any model that relies on the market to deal with questions of economic policy and societal organization.

A bloated public sector that is encouraged by the political authorities to constantly expand, irrespective of its ability to deliver on its promises, becomes the major problem. Instead of being the solution to emerging issues, the state actually becomes the cause of most troubles and difficulties.

Henceforth, without clear objectives or cost-benefit solutions, the state is unable to provide reliable outcomes or to cope with situations, especially emergencies. In the case of Greece in particular, the fire-fighting service had been financially starved, while its personnel had been recruiting new staff based on specific social criteria!

In other words, firefighters entrusted with saving people from emergency situations were hired on the basis of their physical inability to deal with normal life situations, i.e., the physically handicapped, mentally unfit, generally unhealthy, or recruits who were simply from disadvantaged social backgrounds.

Relying on a market mentality means that choices are made based on measurable results, well structured plans to deal with crises, and thoroughly tested options. When none of these requirements are met, it is more than certain that achievements will be negligible and the consequences disastrous.

Hence one must assume that societies that do not rely on rational-choice procedures and which pursue policies of heavy state intervention and patron-client favoritism are not likely to see successful results. This essentially means that societies built on capitalist principles pursue measurable results that further the welfare of their citizens.

Geopolitical repercussions

There is also a geopolitical angle to these observations. If a country cannot keep up with globally established administrative and financial trends, it will end up facing dead-end situations and find itself being marginalized. With the exception of its reliance on heavy state taxation, the EU always pursues policies of open social frontiers and market economics. Countries that deviate from this logic find themselves gradually lost in a political wilderness.

They constantly creep along on the fringes of events and absent themselves from all contemporary processes. By acting as the exception instead of the rule, they will rapidly find themselves marginalized. They will become a stark anomaly and thus be excluded from every movement going forward. They will become the pariahs of the international system. Geopolitical events will pass them by, and they will be looked upon as the “black holes” of the international order.

Domestic events and major financial and/or economic choices cannot be limited any longer to national or regional occurrences. Notwithstanding the importance of events within a country, opting for heavy state intervention may lead a country into the international wilderness.

What’s more, its international standing may also be impaired, contributing to the nation’s overall marginalization.

In Greece we witnessed this repulsive, internally-generated tragedy in all its horrifying glory. Unfortunately we may soon see more far-reaching consequences…

Via Strategic Culture

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Greek-Russian relations at a crossroads

The political landscape of Greek-Russian relations has suddenly darkened.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras meet in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on April 8, 2015.

What exactly is the matter? It is almost impossible to cull any accurate information enabling us to clarify the situation and shine a light on recent developments.

Let’s first sweep the picture clean of inaccurate assertions and unfounded claims. Commentators who almost always turn to the anti-Western narrative immediately took to the field. The Greek government, they claim, is trying to earn its credentials vis-à-vis NATO and the US.

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Although nobody has ever required such a demonstration of allegiance from Athens. Under the present circumstances Greece is not going to win any points with such behaviour. With the agreement at Prespa Lake and Athens yielding to FYROMacedonia’s membership in NATO, the Greek government has already earned what it could from like-minded Western European capitals.

A breakup with Russia would not have added anything to Athens’ pro-Western arsenal.

At a time when the US is blaming Germany for being friendly with Russia and other European states — namely Austria, Italy, and Hungary, among others — appear to be moving closer to Moscow, what would an anti-Russian gesture by Greece signify? How could Athens expect to capitalize on this? I cannot honestly discern any direct benefit for Greece.

Likewise, why would Washington pressure Athens to adapt such a hostile attitude? What would the Americans expect to earn at a time when the US president himself reiterates that in Vladimir Putin he sees a man he can fully understand … and make a deal with…

On the other hand, as far as bilateral relations are concerned, Athens’ relationship with Moscow has been seriously wounded — without any clear benefits for Greece. Putin has made it clear how he would react if faced with a repeated challenge: “If you squeeze a spring as far as it will go, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this”.

One should not overlook the fact that some months ago a meeting was called off between the Greek and Russian government ministries that had been aimed at fostering economic cooperation between the two countries. The reason given was the unexpected appearance at the meeting of some Crimean politicians — the Russians maintaining however that the Greek side had been forewarned and had not raised any objections at the time.

In the end the episode was brushed aside without any major repercussions, at least public ones. But it was an issue nevertheless…

At the last occurrence, culminating in the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Athens there is enough ambivalence as concerns the matter. The main issue being discussed is a possible Russian effort against the Prespa agreement, objecting in order to to nullify FYROM’s future membership in NATO. Two comments must be made here. Only Northern Macedonia can render the agreement invalid at this point, not Greece.

Even if the Greek parliament fails to ratify the agreement, the northern Macedonians will automatically become members of the Atlantic alliance. In order for that to happen the government in Skopje merely needs to satisfy the requirements set out by the Prespa agreement and stipulated by NATO. It is ridiculous to think that Russian diplomats are not fully aware of this situation. Why then, as some observers insinuate, should they try to nudge Greece into walking out of the agreement?

As for NATO, it is doubtful that the Russians do not recognize that the attitude of the US and of its president, who recently met with Russian officials and with President Putin himself in Helsinki, poses a greater threat to the cohesion of the alliance than the membership of tiny FYROM.

My opinion is that the various reports on the issue are making the matter seem much weightier than it really is. My assessment is that Moscow is much less concerned about it than is generally acknowledged.

There is, however, definitely an issue. Otherwise we would not have reached the point of repatriating diplomats. One should never overlook the fact that great powers are usually burdened by many decision-influencing centres. Sometimes they are working outside of the official process that the governments dictate. Russia can hardly be an exception. Often the tentacles of such decision-making centres reach the state machinery.

This has happened in Greece in the past, when a retired Air Force pilot attempted to bomb parts of Albania. We saw it again in the case of a fugitive from Turkey, the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. In the US it is very often the case that various agencies take initiatives without the knowledge of the central government authorities.

With Russia, the issue of Orthodox Christian belief is quite important. Adherence to those principles can potentially prompt actions and moves without the knowledge or approval of a central authority. Unfortunately, I am not privy to specific information, but I believe that my ideas make logical sense.

Why should the Kremlin jeopardise a carefully cultivated cordial relationship with Athens just to pursue a dead-end policy on the issue of Skopje? After all, that’s an issue of paramount importance to Greece. And it could not possibly produce any fruitful results.

There are people in northern Greece who have often involved themselves in issues of vital importance to Greece without the slightest official authorisation or coordination with the aims of the Greek state. Some of them refer to Russia as a sister Orthodox power, without having been entrusted with such authority.

On the other hand, one should not overlook the fact that Greece carries a grudge against the Kremlin for having embraced Turkey in recent months, supplying it with missiles and accepting its friendly overtures on the Syrian front, although aware of its diverse inclinations concerning the future of that region.

It is not impossible that such sentiments may have culminated in and led to the recent crisis between the two states.

Notwithstanding the above, there is a wider issue contributing to the current misunderstandings. Russia has always been a puzzle for anyone attempting to do business with her. They find it difficult to comprehend her reactions and behaviour. Almost all are reminded of Winston Churchill’s words describing Russia: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma“. What few people remember is the rest of Churchill’s phrase: “But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest“.

Some years later he explained: “I am convinced that there is nothing they [the Russians] admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness”.

No country can expect a positive appraisal if it does nothing but beg and offers little or no policy coordination. These words might adequately explain Russia’s attitude towards other countries and its posture towards various global affairs.

Via Strategic Culture

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