The hierarchy of the Church of Greece is to convene an emergency meeting on Thursday to reach a decision regarding the government’s proposal for the separation of Church and state after the first round of talks between a special committee of clerics and the Ministry of Education and Religion ended last month.
The Perpetual Holy Synod called the three-day meeting of the country’s 82 bishops after it concluded on Friday that it needed their authorization to negotiate with the government on the most contentious aspect of the latter’s proposals, which foresees some 8,700 clerics being taken off the state payroll.
Until now the Church of Greece and the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has jurisdiction over several parts of the country, have stated their categorical opposition to the government proposals on changes to labor laws governing the priesthood.
Moreover, a Church source has said that the payroll changes are a “red line.”
For its part, the government is reportedly insisting on a take-it-or-leave-it approach – namely that all articles outlined in the deal for the separation of Church and state must be accepted or it will be scrapped in its entirety.
Archbishop Ieronymos, who agreed in principle last year with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for the separation of Church and state, has said he will back the clerics’ decision regarding the payroll changes.
The government’s proposal stipulates that the deal must be first signed by the Church of Greece before it goes to Parliament for ratification.
Separately, the Perpetual Synod also decided to defer its decision on the recognition of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church until October.