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Religions and social welfare

The Church of Greece and social welfare

It was mainly after the Second World War that the Church of Greece developed its social work. In 1941 it created a national organisation of Christian aid. The 1977 legislation (law 590/1977) restructured the administrative system of the Church with respect to the official social role of the Church, through a direct reference of the Church as an official partner in the domain of social protection. Until the 70s, the Greek Orthodox Church’s social role was above all to provide local aid in times of crises and national emergency, within the context of its philanthropic and charitable mission.
The international conference was an important step that marked a change in the diacony (social service) of the Church; it took place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in 1978. The views included in the texts of this conference were extremely important in developing the social mission of the Church of Greece. At the beginning of the 80s there was a change in the Church of Greece’s position towards a more concrete doctrine on philanthropy and diacony as well as on different social issues. In 1977 the Church created a Synodal Committee on social issues and, following the election of the Archbishop of the Church of Greece (Christodoulos) at the end of the 90s, the Church offered a more concrete form of social welfare in response to social issues and needs. Article 8 of law 2646/1998, which confirms the Church as an official member of the Greek Council on Social Protection, indicates its more active role in the social welfare domain. In 2002 there was also the Church’s proposal to develop social initiatives in cooperation with the State that would be financed by the European Union.
The activities and social programmes of the Church of Greece are generally organised at the national level (through 7 central organisms of the Church of Greece governed by the Holy Synod), at the regional level (through the Archdiocese of Athens and the other 80 metropolises) and at the local level (through parishes and several monasteries). Nevertheless, many social activities are carried out in a more informal way with the support of the Church but at the initiative of the people. The Church’s social services are organised locally through priests and the non-religious personnel of the parish. The Church has a vast network of volunteers. The social welfare initiatives of the Church cover a range of social services, such as providing meals, clothing, financial aid, medical care, diverse rehabilitation programmes and cultural activities for underprivileged people/groups, which include women, youth, the elderly and so forth.

D 19 September 2012    ALina Molokotos

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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