Greece’s newly-elected conservative government has scrapped plans to remove priests from the state payroll, reversing a decision by its leftist predecessor.
Tuesday’s decision by the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been welcomed by thousands of priests, who feared that Greece was on the verge of carving a clearer distinction between church and state.
Priests in the powerful Greek Orthodox Church have been treated as civil servants in the country. Their salaries – estimated at about 200 million euros annually – have therefore been paid directly from the state budget.
However last October, the then leftist-led government reached a tentative deal with the Church to remove 10,000 clerics from the state payroll and instead offer an annual subsidy to a special church fund.
Members of the clergy complained that they did not want to lose their civil servant status.
The deal also foresaw a settlement of a decades-old dispute over property rights between the Greek state and the Church, which is one of Greece’s largest real estate owners.
Greece’s international creditors have long urged the country to sell assets and reduce the number of public sector employees.
On July 7, the conservative New Democracy party won Greece’s snap parliamentary election, unseating the leftists who had been in power since 2015.
At a meeting with Archbishop Ieronymos of the Church of Greece on Tuesday, PM Mitsotakis said his government did not plan to amend constitutional articles concerning the status of the Orthodox Church