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Les relations Eglise-Etat

Greece is a ’fully established’ religious market, regulated according to the ’State-law rule’ system. In particular, the Constitution defines the Parliament as the competent authority to regulate to a certain degree the administrative affairs of the Orthodox Church (art. 72), i.e. the principle of the State’s primacy. The Eastern Orthodox Church is recognized as the ’prevailing’ religion (art. 3). Two views have been suggested with regard to the interpretation of the term ’prevailing’. On the one hand, Nicos Alivizatos has argued that it means ’the overwhelming majority of the Greek people’ ("A New Role for the Greek Church ?", Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 17, 1999, p. 23-40). On the other hand, it has been suggested by Charalampos Papastathis that art. 3 in conjunction to art. 72 actually establish the Church as a State agency, i.e. a State Church ("State and Church in Greece", in : Gerhard Robbers (ed.), State and Church in the European Union, 2005, Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden, p. 115-138). The Constitutional Charter of the Church of Greece was recognized by the Parliament as state law (590/1977). The prevailing status of the Church in Greece is historically founded on the identification of Eastern Orthodoxy with national belonging, and is linked to the country’s mono-confessional composition, as well as to the social norms pertained in the Orthodox community at large.

The Orthodox Church, as well as the Jewish and Muslim community of Thrace, are recognized as having legal personality under public law. The customary law, which in practical terms many identify with Sharia law although this remains debated, is implemented as regards personal status and family relations of the Muslim minority in Western Thrace. This legal status is regulated by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) between Greece and Turkey. Many voices have been raised against its maintenance, claiming it collides with the Human Rights values framework. The Constitution defines the development of ’religious consciousness’ (art. 16) as the State’s mission. The State protects the right to freedom of conscience (which includes the freedom not to believe), and the right to freedom of worship (art. 13). Several Churches (Roman Catholic, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, Anglican and others) that do not enjoy legal personality under public law, have lately been recognized as having a ’religious personality’ under private law (L. 4301/2014). The Muslim immigrant community (like in Athens) used to face, until recently, certain limitations with regard to worship. Overall, since the 1990s, the State has gradually softened the restrictive framework over minority religious practices and institutions, as a result of the European Court of Human Rights rulings against Greece for violating art. 9 (freedom of religion) of the Convention (Dia Anagnostou, "Does European Human Rights Law Matter ? Implementation and Domestic Impact of Strasbourg Court Judgements on Minority-Related Policies", The International Journal of Human Rights, 14/5, 2010, p. 721-743).

Voir PAPADOPOULOU Lina, "State and Church in Greece", in ROBBERS Gerhard (ed.), State and Church in the European Union, Third ed., Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2019, p. 171-194.

D 7 octobre 2016    AKonstantinos Papastathis

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