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Salaries of priests at the centre of political confrontation

29 January 2013 / 22:01:14  GRReporter
2931 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

A new dispute has broken out between the ruling New Democracy and the opposition radical left SYRIZA. It was caused by the statements of the deputy and shadow Minister of Education of the left wing Thassos Kourakis, who suggested that priests' salaries should be paid from a tax introduced for this specific purpose, which should be paid only by those Greeks who stated that they were believers.

New Democracy responded immediately and sharply criticized the statements of the deputy. The "blue" provoked SYRIZA to clarify whether it would agree with the imposition of a new tax "obviously on the entire population, since the percentage of Orthodox Christians exceeds 90. We are looking forward to SYRIZA’s explanations of the amount of the tax and how it will be paid."

Tassos Kourakis "hit back" and noted that the proposal he had made at a conference on "The Church and the Left Wing" was associated with a possible change in the payment of priests.

"We suggest that the state should stop paying the salaries of priests. Obviously, after we declare ourselves in support of the separation of the church and the state, it is impossible for the state budget to continue paying the salary of a priest of any religion. Our alternative proposal is to impose a special tax on citizens who declare themselves Orthodox Christians when filing their tax returns and the revenue from the tax will be given to the Church. In this case, the public will have to be fully informed that by declaring their religion they will be automatically subject to the imposition of this tax," said the deputy in his statement.

"If you think they can let them do it," was the reply of the representative of the Holy Synod, Father Timotheos, to GRReporter. He defined what the deputy had said as "mere words," adding, "In the hall of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Thessaloniki, where the conference took place, there were ideological supporters of Mr. Kourakis, who said that despite his words, the state would continue to pay the salaries of priests."

The subsequent statement of the deputy, which reads that any changes will be the result of in-depth dialogue with the Church, actually confirms his words.

In fact, the imposition of the so-called "church tax" is not a concept of the Greek radical left. There is such a tax in several European countries, including Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and even Catholic Italy. The taxpayers there can choose who will be the recipient of the 0.8% tax on their annual income: the state, the Catholic Church and other religions. If the citizens do not specify a particular recipient, the money goes to welfare or culture.

The discussion about the imposition of such a tax in Greece has affected a large part of society. The separation of the church and the state is a pressing issue that no government has set as a real purpose so far.

The ban on stating a citizen's religion on identity cards caused severe protests in the late 1990s. Their initiator and organizer was the Church led by the extremely popular at the time Archbishop Christodoulos.

The dispute between New Democracy and SYRIZA caused a lot of comments in the social media. Faithful users opposed the probability of imposing a similar tax on them by a future government of the left. "They took our job, flooded us with taxes and now, they want to take our faith," an angry young believer had written.

There was commotion even among the supporters of liberal parties. Some of them said that the tax was not such a bad idea and gave the examples of other countries where it was effective. Others, however, criticized them saying, "We fought to prevent our religion from being stated on our identity cards. We cannot agree with the return of this relic, which violates human rights."

The dispute broke out during an unprecedented flirtation of the left wing with ecclesiastical circles. Within its context, "Avgi" newspaper, which supports and promotes SYRIZA’s policy, gave readers a book about the life of a saint.


Tags: PoliticsLeft wingChurch taxSalaries of priestsChurch
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