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Status of the Church of Greece

The Church of Greece was established by the State with the status of a legal entity under public law. From then onwards, the relations between state and Church have been generally governed by the so-called system of ‘state-law rule’, according to which the Church has the status of a state agency. The Ordinance of 1833 stipulated that the King was the administrative head of the Church. In particular, King Otto was the supreme leader of the Church, having the power to appoint all the members of its synod. Furthermore, all Synodal decisions had to be approved by him, or else they would be considered null and void. The subordination of the Church to the state resulted in the ‘institutional’ identification between the two spheres. On the other hand, this interplay has given to the Church the opportunity to reproduce its social power and escape –at least partially– from the effects of the secularization process.
The main characteristics, the ‘ideal type’, of the ‘state-law rule’ system, various forms of which have been in effect to this day in Greece, are in principle the following: a) the state has the upper hand as concerns the religious affairs. The two spheres are not on an equal footing, the Church being subordinated to the political power; b) Orthodoxy is recognized in Greece as the ‘prevailing’ religion of the state, i.e. the official religion; c) the Church is a legal person under public law; d) the Orthodox Church enjoys a privileged legal and financial position compared to the other cults; and e) the state guarantees, however, the right of religious freedom to all its citizens.

As provided by the Constitution of 1975, the Church is under the authority of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, while the Greek Parliament is the competent body to legislate on the various religious affairs (art. 72, par. 1). According to art. 3, the Orthodox faith is the ‘prevailing’ religion of the state. Art. 13 protects the rights to freedom of religious conscience as well as that of religious expression. Conversion through violent means is prohibited.

D 20 September 2013    AKonstantinos Papastathis

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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