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Amid a deepening rift between the leftist-led coalition and the Church of Greece over the role of religion in society, Archbishop Ieronymos delivered a lengthy speech on Tuesday, saying that the government could move ahead with the separation of Church and state, but must accept the political cost that goes with it.

Describing the Church of Greece as a timeless “mother of our people,” Ieronymos said that if the state wants to proceed with the separation, and has the consent of the people, it can do so, as long it “unswervingly” upholds its obligations to the Church and the relevant conventions.

But he expressed doubt whether the state could indeed proceed with the separation.

“The state neither wants to nor can really separate from the Church,” he said, implying that society would never acquiesce to it.

“The Church, in my opinion, must never ask for a separation from its people,” he said, deriding the effort as ideologically driven.

“The relationship between Church and state is not and can never be a personal or an ideological working hypothesis, as it is an issue of the people.”

Striking a more radical note, he targeted left-wing ideology, shrouded in a progressive guise, as the driving force behind the move for the separation.

He dismissed the calls for separation as outdated remnants of the previous century, immersed in an “intolerant anti-religious and anti-clerical populist spirit,” which, he claimed, is not compatible with today’s perceptions.

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