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Archbishop Ieronymos wants a more tolerant Church March 24, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Politics, Religion & Faith.
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Archbishop Ieronymos yesterday distanced himself from the Holy Synod, which last week described cohabitation between unmarried couples as “prostitution,” saying the Church should be more open-minded and less moralizing.

“The Church is what Christ wants it to be, not what people want it to be,” Ieronymos told a congregation at Kalamata Cathedral. “We are giving the impression that the role of the Church is to force people to be good,” he said. Ieronymos cited the example of Saint Dionysus of Zakynthos, who reached sainthood even though he had sinned by harboring a criminal.

The Holy Synod’s statement, apparently influenced by Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki, was a reaction to government plans to introduce a cohabitation law granting the same rights to couples who live together as those who are married.


Greek bloggers fight for gay partnership equality March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life, Lifestyle, Politics, Religion & Faith.
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More than 200 weblogs have joined an initiative called Greek Bloggers Against Discrimination to campaign against proposed new legislation on domestic partnerships that excludes same-sex couples.

“This discriminatory project has been widely denounced not just by the LGBT community, but also Greek citizens from all walks of life who believe that it violates the Equality clause enshrined in our constitution, as well as the country’s European commitments,” the group said. “We ask our friends in Europe and around the world to help us achieve the widest possible publicity for these initiatives.”

Gay rights group Olke plans to lobby the Greek government and has slammed what they perceive as an unlawful draft bill. Greek government policy is still steadfastly anti-gay. Gay marriage has long been opposed and gays are still barred from entering the military. However, homosexuals in Greece are still seeking a greater voice within their country in recent years, which culminated in the first Gay Pride parade in 2005.

A Greek lesbian couple in Athens are due to attempt to marry in a civil ceremony in the country’s first same-sex marriage. The law does not explicitly proclaim a civil union must take place between a man and a woman and the couple are hoping to take advantage of that loophole.

The Greek Othordox Church’s governing synod has described the plans to afford unmarried or defacto couples the same legal rights as their married counterparts as a “catastrophic bomb” which threatened Greek society and compared the move to “prostitution.”

For a full list of the weblogs that have signed on the initiative > http://gayrightsgreece.blogspot.com/2008/03/domestic-partnership-that-discriminates.html

Greek Church against cohabitation March 18, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Lifestyle, Living, Politics, Religion & Faith.
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In the most emphatic fashion, the Church of Greece’s Holy Synod yesterday declared its opposition to the government’s bid to give unmarried couples greater rights by stating that any form of relationship other than a couple married in an Orthodox Church is tantamount to “prostitution.”

The Synod’s reaction signals an about-turn for Archbishop Ieronymos, who last week appeared to accept that changing the bill was beyond the Church’s sphere of influence.

However, this was completely overturned yesterday when the Synod issued a statement saying that it did not approve of the government trying to make its proposals part of the country’s legal framework.

The new law is set to allow unmarried couples to make their relationship official and legally binding by signing a simple notarial contract. This would give each partner the same rights as if the couple were married.

The Synod said that the draft law constituted a “catastrophic bomb” being placed under the foundations of Greek society. “The Church accepts and blesses the established wedding, according to Orthodox traditions, and considers any other type of similar relationship to be prostitution” the Synod said in a statement.

Sources said that Ieronymos had wanted the Synod to adopt a more moderate approach in line with his comments last week but most of the other 12 members of the Synod seemed to favor a more outspoken stance.

“That was the opinion of one person, this is the opinion of 13,” said Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki, a member of the Synod, explaining the difference between Ieronymos’s position last week and this week.

UPDATE >>> 19 March 2008 >>> Ieronymos ire > Archbishop angry with wording of Synod response to cohabitation law

Archbishop Ieronymos, the Head of the Church of Greece, is upset the Holy Synod issued a statement on Monday saying that any form of partnership that is not a marriage sanctioned by the Orthodox Church is “prostitution,” sources said yesterday.

The statement was apparently composed by Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki, who insists that the wording was approved by the entire Synod. Sources said that Ieronymos was disturbed with the strong language used in the statement, although he did not object to the Church expressing opposition to the government’s plans to introduce a cohabitation law.

A controversial Greek legislation > cohabitation law March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life, Greece News, Lifestyle, Religion & Faith.
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Justice Minister and Archbishop of Greece to discuss controversial legislation

Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis is due to meet today with Archbishop Ieronymos at the latter’s official residence in Plaka to discuss the government’s plans to introduce a cohabitation law, giving partners in a relationship the same rights as if they were married.

Hatzigakis reportedly requested the meeting following opposition from many clerics who claim the move would “downgrade the institution of marriage.” But Archbishop Ieronymos appears to be prepared. “Life goes on and we must learn to tackle its challenges,” he said, adding that the Holy Synod would debate the matter when it convenes next week.

UPDATE > 14 March 2008 >>> Church clears cohabitation law

The head of the Church of Greece Archbishop Ieronymos, yesterday gave a green light to the government’s plans to introduce a law that would allow couples who live together to have the same rights as those that are married.

Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis presented the proposals to Archbishop Ieronymos amid concern that the Church might object to the change of law. However, Ieronymos, who was elected to succeed Archbishop Christodoulos last month, indicated that trying to interfere in the details of the law is beyond the Church’s remit.

«The members of the Church follow the dictates of the Bible, the rules of the Church, the order of the ecumenical synods and the Holy tradition,» said the Archbishop. «As a result, there are clear limits and in respect to this matter, the Church does not have the right to ask for it to be watered down or to have any other request granted.»

The new law is set to allow unmarried couples to make their relationship official and legally binding by signing a simple notarial contract. The contract would remain in effect, thus ensuring full protection of both partners’ legal rights, until they get married or one marries someone else.

There are no plans to extend the law to same-sex couples, although this may be considered in the future.

Yesterday’s meeting came as a lesbian couple announced that they will try next week to become the first same-sex partners to be married in a civil ceremony by taking advantage of a 1982 law which does not specify that a civil union must be between a man and a woman.

Ieronymos appeared to take a philosophical approach to the changes that are afoot. «Some people who have certain problems choose to regulate their lives in their own way,» he said. «The Church cannot keep a check on this by enforcing measures like the police.»

The Archbishop said that following his discussion with the Minister he was confident that the proper research would be carried out to see what the public thinks of introducing a cohabitation law.

A Church for the 21st century > With little drumbeating and no television cameras, the recently appointed Athens Archbishop is changing the face of the Church of Greece. Ieronymos is bringing the Church closer to the tradition of humility and love for one’s fellow man.

The new Archbishop gave away the luxury cars of his predecessor and turned down the luxury home in the upmarket Filothei district, opting instead for a small apartment. He is doing important charity work far from the glare of publicity and is steering clear of politics. He has rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s, leaving diplomacy and the nation’s well-being to Caesar. Ieronymos does not aspire to become a leader of the nation but a shepherd of souls.

Ieronymos’s deeds elevate the Church in the eyes of the people. At the same time, they pre-empt its main detractors. The new Archbishop is bringing the Church back to society, a society in harmony not conflict. He is building a Church for the 21st century.

Church of Greece OKs Muslim cemetery in Athens March 8, 2008

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The newly elected Archbishop Ieronymos, the Head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, has given the go-ahead for the creation of a Muslim cemetery in Athens, Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis said yesterday after talks with the new Church leader.

“His Beatitude Ieronymos was already prepared and told me that we should move forward and realize the project”, Kassimis said following his talks with the Archbishop.

The move signals the desire of the Orthodox Church “to communicate and embrace all of the country’s residents irrespective of their religious persuasion” the Deputy Minister enthused.

The Church has donated 3 hectares of land, worth an estimated 13 million euros, for the creation of a Muslim cemetery in western Athens. In July 2006 the Greek government approved the building of a mosque near the center of Athens although works have yet to begin.

Greece’s new elected Archbishop calls for unity, truth February 11, 2008

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Greece’s newly elected Archbishop Ieronymos yesterday led his final Sunday service at the cathedral of Livadia, where he has been a local Bishop for nearly three decades, stressing the need for unity within the Church and good relations with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios.

Referring to his new role, Ieronymos said he regarded himself as “equal among equals… a coordinator” and stressed his desire to “work collectively and with unity.”

The 70-year-old cleric said the Church should do everything possible to protect the role of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate, saying its existence was “a blessing” for the Greek Orthodox Church. Vartholomaios had clashed frequently with the late Archbishop Christodoulos.

In an apparent reference to the wave of recent corruption scandals, Ieronymos said institutions and laws should be respected. “We are living in an era of confusion where lies can be presented as truth and bad as good… institutions are good and should be supported and laws are also good and should be observed,” he said.

Church of Greece elects a moderate new Αrchbishop February 8, 2008

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Soft-spoken reformist Ieronymos, Bishop of Thebes, chosen in 2nd vote

08-02-08_archbishop_ieronymos.jpg  The newly elected Archbishop of Athens, Ieronymos, holds up a cross as he emerges yesterday from Athens Cathedral, where he was chosen to succeed the late Christodoulos. Ieronymos, 70, is seen as a reformist but more soft-spoken than his predecessor. Ieronymos had been runner-up to Christodoulos in the 1998 elections.

Senior Orthodox clerics yesterday elected a moderate and popular churchman, Bishop Ieronymos of Thebes, to succeed Archbishop Christodoulos, who died last month.

Ieronymos, who had been a runner-up to Christodoulos in the last Archbishopric elections in 1998, was appointed following two rounds of voting at Athens Cathedral.

The 70-year-old cleric, from Viotia in central Greece, garnered 45 out of 74 votes in the first round, compared to 27 votes for his key challenger Bishop Efstathios of Sparta. Ieronymos got 33 in the first round, missing the minimum 38-vote mark.

When a lamp lit up outside the cathedral, indicating that a new Archbishop had been chosen, hundreds of supporters and clerics clapped and cheered. Ieronymos greeted supporters briefly upon emerging from the cathedral before walking on foot to the Archbishop’s residence in Plaka. He then led a service in memory of Christodoulos at the First Cemetery.

Senior Church figures and politicians welcomed the election of the new Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, considered a reformer but less outspoken and media-savvy than Christodoulos.

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox faithful who had clashed frequently with Christodoulos, welcomed the development. «My esteem for (Ieronymos) is great and longstanding and my hopes for cooperation with him in solving the problems of the Orthodox Church are even greater,» Vartholomaios said. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis also sang the Bishop’s praises. «His faith, devotion to the Church… worthiness and experience will serve him well in his historic mission,» Karamanlis said.

Ieronymos, who holds several degrees from Greek and foreign universities, had criticized as «extreme» the mass rallies organized by Christodoulos in 2000 to protest the state’s decision to delete the reference to religion on citizens’ ID cards.

Church sources said they thought Ieronymos would continue in Christodoulos’s footsteps, boosting ties between the Church and society, particularly with young people. But they also expected him to distinguish clearly the role of the Church from that of the state.

Yesterday’s election of a new Archbishop of Athens in a rapid, clear and procedurally impeccable manner, showed us that the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece is paying attention to the signs of the times and learning a lesson from the mistakes of the recent past. Archbishop Ieronymos is now called upon to lead the Church with modesty, unity and a spirit of reconciliation – this is the mandate handed to him by the Church Hierarchy. He is also expected to respond to the rising expectations of the people, to put his ear to the ground and listen to a changing society, to stand beside the people of Greece and heed their fears and concerns, to cooperate and coexist in a constructive manner with the state.

The speedy and unequivocal election heralds an era of maturation and reorganization for the Church of Greece – and it needs it. The country also needs a mature and stable Orthodox Church that will spread the message of love and solidarity and ensure social consensus. We send our wishes to the new Archbishop that he may follow this path.