Due to support given to the church by the state, Greek Orthodox institutions are feeling increasingly under pressure in the crisis-hit country.
According to Greek sources quoted by the Paris-based Service Orthodoxe de Presse (May 23), the Greek government intends to cut by half the budget used for paying the salaries of Greek clergy. Moreover, it would like to have all Greek Orthodox institutions transfer their money from accounts with private banks to the Greek National Bank. Out of 757,500 permanent employees in the public sector, in 2010 the government paid the salaries of 10,800 priests and church staff.
Since the government will now apply the rule of hiring only one civil servant for every five leaving as part of austerity measures linked to the international bailout loan arrangement, it had announced in late 2010 that the rule should also apply to the church.Such a move would mean a drastic reduction in the ordination of new priests. Bishops protested, but some have already announced that they would nevertheless proceed with new ordinations, although the new priests would not be able to receive a state-paid salary for the time being.
Other options are being considered, such as having part-time priests with secular jobs, or salaries directly paid by parishes (Service Orthodoxe de Presse, April). During the second half of 2010, 240 priests went into retirement, and the total number of state-paid church employees had gone down to 10,421 by the end of the year. Church officials would like to have 300 new priests ordained in 2011.
Several dioceses are already strongly hit by the crisis, and the situation could worsen. Moreover, a number of social work programs are also being affected at the very time that poverty is on the rise and social needs are greater than ever.