The Ecumenical Patriarchate met with Greek Orthodox Church delegations in Athens on 12 February. The meeting was held to discuss the revision of the Greek Constitution that aims to pave the way for a clearer distinction between the powers of the Church and State.

The State-Church Agreement was first announced in principle by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Archbishop Ieronymos last November.

The deal would remove some 10,000 priests and auxiliary staff from the state payroll. Instead, the government would transfer an annual state subsidy to a special church fund created to pay priests’ salaries.

The agreement would also foresee a settlement to a decades-old dispute over Church property, bearing in mind that the Greek Orthodox Church is one of the country’s largest real estate owners. For this reason, Greece’s creditors have urged the government to sell assets and reduce the number of public sector employees.

The Patriarchate and Athens Church were in full agreement on the proposals for the revision of the Constitution and the preservation of the current salary status of the Orthodox clergy.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, a statement was issued:

“Two delegations met today at the headquarters of the Church of Greece Holy Synod. The Church of Greece delegation, chaired by His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece; and the Ecumenical Patriarchate delegation, chaired by His Eminence Metropolitan Geron Demetrios of Prigiponisa. The meeting was conducted in a climate of mutual understanding, cooperation, and unity. There was absolute agreement and identical views between both Churches, on the proposals regarding the revision of the Constitution, and on maintaining the existing system to pay the salaries of the Orthodox clergy.”

Churches of the diaspora are not affected by the agreement as clerics are not paid by the Greek state.