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Church has difficult time in Greece

LONDON (Agencies): Archbishop Frangiskos Papamanolis is accusing the Socialist-led government of Alexis Tsipras in Athens of mishandling the current crisis that has seen European Union ministers announce a new rescue plan in return for far-reaching reforms.

An article by Jonathan Luxmoore in the July 15 edition of the English journal, The Tablet, quotes the president of the bishops’ conference as saying, “The harsh reality we cannot ignore is that Greece cannot get anywhere without the European Union. But I have to say with regret that the past six months have been a waste of time, since our government hasn’t understood the situation. Tsipras inherited a very bad situation. But he also won the election with promises he could not keep.”

Archbishop Papamanolis told Italy’s Servizio Informazione Religiosa news service that Greece needs to regain confidence, adding that a government of national unity could be helpful if political parties put aside their special interests.

The Tablet was told that the crisis has severely hampered the Church’s pastoral work, placing tax burdens on it that it cannot pay and making maintenance of its buildings and services to migrants and refugees highly problematic.

“As a formation of the left, Tsipras’s governing Syriza Party is less tied to the Orthodox Church than its right-wing predecessor—but its stance towards Churches has been ambivalent and we haven’t seen any concrete improvements,” Archbishop Sevastianos Rossolatos, from Athens, said.

“Although it promised to be more objective towards minorities when it won power last January, it has since been too preoccupied with the economic crisis to take steps to ensure equality,” he continued.

He then pointed out that the dominant Orthodox clergy are all paid by the state, whereas Catholic priests and bishops get nothing, and the Orthodox maintains a hostile attitude towards any ecumenism, regarding it as a danger.

Catholics make up just three per cent of Greece’s population of 11 million, compared with the 97 per cent that belong to the Orthodox Church.

However, Orthodox theologians have thanked Pope Francis and other Christian leaders for showing solidarity with their country and urged Churches to work together to protect Europe’s cultural, religious and humanist inheritance against forces seeking to impose a deification of the markets.

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