- November 2016 : Religious education at school
The relations between the Government and the Church of Greece have deteriorated during the last few months, mainly because the government plans to transform the religious class given in primary and secondary education, from a course with a clear confessional character into a course in which the pupils will get acquainted with the cultural frames, value systems, and doctrines of all the world religions. This governmental plan has triggered a strong reaction from the Church of Greece, threatening the current modus vivendi. It is interesting to note that archbishop Hieronymus has recently started to approach the hardliners, moving away from his moderate stance into a more conservative and rigorist discourse. The late replacement of the minister of Education and Cults, Nikos Philis (4/11/2016), who was accused by archbishop Hieronymus of anti-clerical tendencies, practically marks the blocking of the neutralization process of the religious education. Syriza party withdrew their pro-secular agenda in front of the threat to social unity at a critical time for the country’s economy. The state’s administration also withdrew, due to the firm reaction of the Independent Greeks party, namely the coalition partner of Syriza.
- August 2016 : Changes for Muslims in Greece
The Parliament issued a legal bill (3/8/2016) regarding the modification of the contour plan, which would allow the erection of the Mosque in Athens (see an article of Efsyn.) This file has been in a state of limbo for decades. This decision was made possible after the decision of the Council of State (7/7/2016), claiming that the construction would not cause any environmental damage, and is compatible with the city planning. The bill was voted by all parties, except for the radical right party of Independent Greeks and the neo-Nazi party of the Golden Dawn. Following the same line of thought, the Government has approved three existing mosques in Athens and one in the town of Thebes (3/7/2016), which had not yet received legal approved. There are also plans to construct a separate cemetery for the Muslim community in Athens, in a property donated by the Church of Greece. Finally, a department of Islamic Studies has been officially established at the School of Theology of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. It has been operating since September 2016.
- 25 July 2016 : The proposals of the Government on the future constitutional reform
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has proposed to enshrine in the constitution the idea of state religious neutrality, at the same time maintaining, for historical and practical reasons, the recognition of Orthodoxy as a state religion. Moreover, he supported the mandatory political oath for the elected governmental officials, the judges, and all public servants. Taking into account the traditional position of the Greek left on the separation between Church and State, this might be considered as a conservative shift, dictated by the power equilibrium within the coalition government as well as by the need to avoid social division in a time of financial crisis. With the exception of the Communist party and the Potami party, all parliamentary groups preferred not to take a clear stance. Thus, the possibility of reaching a consensus remains an open question for the years to come. It goes without saying that the opinion of the Church will be central for the actual outcome of the affair.