Arcbishop Ieronymos of Athens and Education Minister Kostas Gavroglu held talks today in an effort to piece together a path of dialogue after the Church of Greece hierarchy rejected a key provision of the Ieronymos-Tsipras pact on Church-State relations, that of taking priests off the civil service roles and paying them indirectly through a subsidy to be disbursed centrally to the Church.

The two agreed to form a joint committee that will review the details on all 15 points in the Tsipras-Ieronymos agreement, which will include priests.

Gavroglou will also hold a round of talks with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the semi-autonomous Church of Crete, both of which expressed intense consternation about having been kept in the dark during the lengthy government-Orthodox Church of Greece negotiations.

“The dialogue has many dimensions, which are being analysed and clarified and we are reaching syntheses in our discussions. The salaries and pensions and healthcare of the clergy will be guaranteed absolutely, transparently, and categorically,” Gavroglu declared after his meeting with Ieronymos today, in a clear effort to placate the angry lower clergy.

Also present at today’s talks were Metropolitan bishops David of Grevena and Chariton of Elassona, and the education ministry’s General Secretary for Religious Affairs, Yorgos Kalantzis.

“There will be no change to the labour and salary status of priests. We await the meeting of the Permanent Holy Synod [the day-to-day 12-member executive of the Church] in order to commence the final stage of threshing out the draft legislation,” Gavroglu noted.

Ieronymos determined to continue dialogue

“The hierarchy [of Metropolitan bishops] has ordered us to continue the dialogue. Through the [Church] Committee there will ensure transparency, which will solve existing problems,” Ieronymos said.

“We must give priority to the rights of our priests. They are the ones we have in mind in everything that we do. They are the eyes, ears, and body of the Church. Otherwise we are isolated individuals,” the Archbishop said.

Asked if his work is now disputed by the hierarchy, Ieronymos said, “I do have concerns over how I handled it, but it is possible to reach a convergence of opinion in a body as large as the hierarchy. I believe in my work, and that gives me more strength today.”