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  • March 2020 : The Historical Origins of the Religious Oath in the Greek State

In March 2020, the newly elected President of the Hellenic Republic Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou took the following religious oath (according to article 33, par. 2 of the Greek Constitution) : “I do swear in the name of the Holy, Consubstantial and Indivisible Trinity to safeguard the Constitution and the laws, to care for their faithful observance thereof, to defend the national independence and territorial integrity of the Country, to protect the rights and liberties of the Greeks and to serve the general interest and the progress of the Greek People”. After a prayer, Hieronymos, Archbishop of Athens, read this oath which was repeated by the new president.

The religious oath was established in the Greek State due to historical reasons. Specifically, during the Greek War of Independence, the first National Assembly of Epidaurus (1821–1822) voted for the first Greek Constitution. This Constitution of 1822, formally known as ‘The Provisional Regime of Greece,’ starts with the words “In the name of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity”. These words underline the role of Orthodoxy in these circumstances. Moreover, this constitution is strongly connected with Christianity and the role of the religion to the construction of the Greek national identity. According to this, “all the indigenous inhabitants of Greek territory who believe in Christ are Greeks” (The Provisional Regime of Greece, section B, par. b). On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that the Holy Gospels forbids the Christians from taking an oath. Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel : “[…] But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all : either by heaven for it is God’s throne” (Matthew 5:34). The religious oath was part of the effort of the newly founded Greek state to turn the rebels into citizens. The Greek state adopted the oath from the Church and created the Oath Taking Ceremony, which became part of the public sector.

However, according to the Charter of the Holy Synod (in 1852), prelates and priests do not take an oath, but they give assurance according to the sacred canons and the laws of the state. Until today, prelates and priests do not take an oath, but they put their right hand on their chest, giving thus their assurance.
In conclusion, the religious oath adopted by the Greek ex-rebels and became an integrate part of the Greek State, so as to ensure that officials and citizens serve their duties honourably. Whether it succeeds or not would be the issue of another study.

- The Provisional Regime of Greece (Προσωρινό Πολίτευμα της Ελλάδος), (Known as the Greek Constitution of 1822).
- The Constitution of Greece, As revised by the parliamentary resolution of May 27th 2008 of the VIIIth Revisionary Parliament.
- Petropoulos, John Anthony (2015). Politics and Statecraft in the Kingdom of Greece, 1833–1843. Princeton University Press.

D 2 décembre 2020    AEmmanouil Chalkiadakis

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