Government & Church Clash on EU-IMF Memo



    Greece’s socialist government, led by Giorgios Papandreou, has clashed with the Greek Orthodox Church after strong clerical criticism of  the ruling class.  The ruling class is said to have turned Greece into a ”country under occupation” by EU-IMF creditors.
    Government spokesperson, Giorgios Petalodis, answering criticism in a pastoral message circulated last Sunday in all churches, said that the claims of the Orthodox bishops ”have no relationship with reality”.  The claims derive from the fact that the clerics ”apparently fail to understand the great importance of the efforts made by the government” to bring Greece out of crisis and to modernise the country. He invited the Church to consider ‘the changes and the needs of new times.
    The strong government reaction, observers say, is because the Church has chosen a delicate time for Greece to join the chorus of criticism from the entire opposition, both right and left, trade unions and the many sectors of society that oppose the austerity plan. The episode comes amid unending strikes and protests against the government.
    Despite the fact that the message from the Holy Synod only partly supports the claims of the political and union opposition to the memorandum of understanding with the EU and IMF, the pastoral message has been criticized by the left and in particular by the Communist Party (KKE). The main opposition force, the centre-right New Democracy (ND) party, has approved ”the holy intervention” of the bishops, saying that it evokes the Greek ecclesiastical hierarchy’s more militant past.