Source: The Economist
Archbishop Ieronymos is struggling to sell a deal to his bishops
THERESA MAY is not the only public figure in Europe who is making a rearguard defence of a “historic” agreement about an ultra-sensitive matter that was struck behind closed doors and may not survive open debate among the interested parties.
Earlier this month it was reported that a landmark accord had been reached to secularise the most theocratically governed democracy in Europe, Greece. The bargain was sealed on November 6th between the country’s leftist and atheist (though not especially anti-religious) prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and the head of the Greek Orthodox church, Archbishop Ieronymos. Today the archbishop was struggling to defend the accord before the bishops who make up his Holy Synod. It has been billed as the hardest moment in the 80-year-old cleric’s ten-year reign, and even a turning point in the 200-year history of the Greek state.
The deal is certainly an intriguing piece of political gamesmanship. One provision dominated the headlines: the country’s 10,000 or so priests would no longer be considered civil servants, with all the job security and pension rights that go with that status. Instead the state would pay the church an annual subsidy of €200m ($230m) a year, a sum that would not be affected by any change in the number of clerics. Over time, the need for such a subsidy would diminish. In what was described as a win-win arrangement, a large portfolio of properties, ranging from land to urban real estate, whose ownership had been disputed between church and state since the 1950s would be jointly managed for the benefit of both parties.