The Greek population is composed of a 97% of Christian Orthodox. The rest of the population is Muslim, Roman Catholic and Jewish. Greek Muslims make up about 1.3% of the population, and live mainly in Thrace. Greece has some Roman Catholics: mainly in the Cyclades islands of Syros, Paros and Naxos; some Protestants and some Jews, mainly in Thessaloniki. Some groups in Greece have started an attempt to reconstruct Hellênismos, the old Greek pagan religion.
One small part of Greece, Mount Athos, is recognised by the Greek constitution as an autonomous monastic republic the foreign relations of which, however, remain the prerogative of the Greek state.
The Orthodox Church in Greece has been considered as the protector of Greekness or of the so-called “Hellenic Orthodox Civilization.”
The actual role of the Orthodox Church since the creation of the Greek nation-state has been interpreted in many diverse and opposing ways; nevertheless, in all Greek constitutions the Orthodox Church is accorded the status of the “prevailing religion.
Most religious minorities in Greece can enjoy protection based on agreements and protocols.
Article 3 of the Greece Constitution defines the relations between the Church and the State :
“The prevailing religion in Greece is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ. The Orthodox Church of Greece, acknowledging our Lord Jesus Christ as its head, is inseparably united in doctrine with the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople and with every other Church of Christ of the same doctrine, observing unwaveringly, as they do, the holy apostolic and synodal canons and sacred traditions. It is autocephalous and is administered by the Holy Synod of serving Bishops and the Permanent Holy Synod originating thereof and assembled as specified by the Statutory Charter of the Church in compliance with the provisions of the Patriarchal Tome of June 29, 1850 and the Synodal Act of September 4, 1928.”
Separtaion State – Church
The relationship between the Church and the State can be characterized as sui generis, since there is no complete separation nor is there an established church.
Practically what this means according to Professor M. P. Stathopoulos, former Minister of Justice, is that the Greek state in many ways “it is religious.” As he explains, the Greek state mingles in the affairs of the Orthodox Church, which accepts this interference because it thus obtains a kind of state institutional status, allowing it, in turn, to carry greater power and influence.
The state passes legislative acts that while addressing all citizens they represent the interests of the Christian Orthodox Church; also, it relegates a religious character to events that ought to be strictly secular in character in a modern state, starting from the opening of parliamentary works by the Orthodox Archbishop and going as far as the education sector. Children have obligatory religious courses and pray all together every morning before starting the classes in all the schools, private or public.
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