Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece , said last Saturday he was willing to put property the church owns up for development to help raise money to repay the country’s debt.
“Come, let’s develop (the property) for Greece,” Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens told Greek TV in an interview during the Greek Orthodox Easter holiday. “If needed by the state to cooperate, we are here”, he added.
Asked if the Church would consider selling off property, he explained that in the exploitation of Church assets, they will act together with the Greek state, on condition that the money raised would go toward paying off Greece’s debt.
“I would say let’s work together and the state can use the revenues to repay all its debts, but the plots of land will remain Greek, in Greek hands”, he clarified in the interview with private broadcaster Skai.
He did not say what kind of business developments he had in mind; however, he confirmed the issue would be discussed with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras “in good time.”
The Archbishop also talked about German Chancellor Angela Merkel, stating that he had “no dispute with her, but whatever can be done for the Greek people would be welcome.”
The Greek Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church is a powerful institution in Greece and owns more land than anyone except the state, including prime real estate in Athens.
Greece has been on the verge of bankruptcy since its debt crisis broke out in 2009 and has depended on rescue loans totalling 240 billion euros from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to stay afloat.
While an integral part of Greek society, critics say the Church owns too many assets, pays too little in taxes and has failed to contribute its fair share as ordinary Greeks’ bills have soared during the economic crisis.
The Church has called such accusations “a myth”.
Tsipras thanked Greek Church
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wrote a letter to Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, thanking him for his recent statements regarding the use of Church property for the benefit of the Greek state.
In his letter, which was released by the prime minister’s press office, Tsipras suggests the immediate forming of a committee on the study and resolution of issues concerning the Church of Greece, so that the implementation of this significant proposal can start immediately.
“At a time when great pressure is exerted on public finances, such initiatives can provide a real breather to the state funds and the society in general”, said the Prime Minister, commenting on the Archbishop’s proposal.
Tsipras also noted in his letter that this gesture proves that the Church listens to the needs of the people and responds to the demands of the society, sending a message of rallying at this difficult time.