Greek Orthodox church employees could come off state payroll

9 Nov 18

Some 10,000 Orthodox church employees could come off the Greek state payroll, ending the status of priests and bishops as civil servants.

Prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Archbishop Ieronymos agreed earlier this week that the state would continue to pay the salaries of those working for the church, but it will no longer be as civil servants.

The agreement will have to be approved by church leaders and government MPs. The left-wing government is hoping the public sector would cease to have any religious role as it moves towards a secular establishment.

“With this agreement 10,000 civil servant posts will be freed up,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzannakopoulos told the Guardian.

“Although clerics are not exactly civil servants, in name they are, and are counted as civil servants.”

Greece has been trying to scale back its public sector after years of international bailouts. Almost one fifth (18%) of the workforce in the country was employed by the government in 2015.

The Orthodox Church plays a big role in public life in Greece and the agreement brings the country one step closer to separation of Church and State.

“Religious neutrality [means] that the Greek state will not be able to recognise certain religions with more or less rights,” Tzannakopoulos added.

“But what doesn’t change is recognition of the fact that the Orthodox church has the overwhelming majority of [religious] faithful.”

Payment will be made through an annual subsidy of €200m. The fund will not change even if the church increases or reduces the number of staff.

In return, the archbishop agreed that the church would not oppose moves to make the state “religion neutral”.

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