The synod of bishops of the Orthodox Church of Greek denounced the government's plans to legalize non-marital co-habitation. There are fears that it would lead to legalizing homosexual liaisons.
By George Gilson Friday, April 04, 2008
The Orthodox Church of Greece took a hard line against the government's plans to legalise non-marital cohabitation agreements. It declared all relationships not blessed in an Orthodox wedding ceremony, including civil marriages, "fornication".
In an announcement released after a March 17 meeting, the standing Holy Synod said: "The church accepts and blesses the traditional wedding ceremony in accordance with the Orthodox ritual and it considers as fornication every other 'marital' relationship outside it."
The announcement was widely seen as a stinging defeat for newly-elected Archbishop Ieronymos, who had proclaimed collective church governance one of his key aims.
Ieronymos had adopted much more moderate language about the government's plans after he was visited by Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on March 14.
"On this matter the church is not able to have either discounts or deviations. There is a choice of certain people who have certain problems to regulate in their own way their own lives," Ieronymos had said in remarks that were perceived as tolerant of the government's plans.
But in the 12-member synod, the traditionalists apparently prevailed, picking exceptionally harsh language to lambaste the government's planned bill.
"The synod states that it is entirely impossible for it to acquiesce to the planned 'agreement on free cohabitation' law, the implementation of which fosters and legitimises most heavy ethical sins and, if applied, would constitute a timebomb at the foundations of the Christian family and the entirety of Greek society. The standing Holy Synod expressed the hope and wish that this bill would not be passed into law," the announcement declared.
Though a defeat, Ieronymos successfully fended off opinions from some bishops, like Anthimos of Thessaloniki, that the church should even clash with the government over the issue, and from others, like Amvrosios of Kalavryta, that the church should implement spiritual sanctions for Orthodox Christians who enter into extra-marital cohabitation agreements.
Such cohabitation agreements, which exist in other European countries, are designed to regulate legal matters arising from extramarital cohabitation, including responsibility for child support.
In that regard, an estimated five percent of Greek children are said to be affected by the planned agreement. The New Democracy government planned to hammer out the bill over the next few months and had hoped for church acquiescence.
Critics say the cohabitation agreements could open the way to homosexual marriages as such contracts do not necessarily specify the gender of the parties. Hatzigakis has firmly denied this, leading gay and lesbian groups to say they will seek their rights in court and, if need be, even all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights.
George Gilson writes for Athens News and appears here with permission.
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