November 29, 2009

Does the Church of Greece Own Vast Amounts of Property?

On October 25 the above report was aired on Greek TV news NET which exposes the myth that the Church of Greece holds vast amounts of property in Greece. This report was done to answer a great number of critics of the Church of Greece, who believe it is a scandal for the Church to hold such vast amounts of property which supposedly can play a significant role in helping the economy of Greece if the Church sold its property.

What is the truth?

1. The number of acres belonging to Public Property = 43,598,000 acres; to Local Self-Government = 15,553,200; to the Church = 1,292,300; to various Associations = 1,098,400.

2. Of the 1,292,300 acres belonging to the Church of Greece, they are divided among the following: 367,000 are forested expanses; 735,300 are grazing ground; and only 190,000 acres are good for farming.

3. Of the 190,000 acres that are good for farming, 53% are in mountainous or hill zones - 75% of which is dry land.

4. Calculating these equations, this means that only 0.48% of the land of Greece is good agricultural land which belongs to the Church of Greece. The government has 34 times more property than the Church of Greece.

5. It is commonly believed by ecclesiastical hierarchs in Greece that whatever property the Church does own and is usable should be used for the common good of the people of Greece. This it tries to uphold.

6. One example that shows such characteristics is the Monastery of Petraki in Athens, which was granted a large amount of property (the largest ecclesiastical property in Athens) in the 17th and 18th century. Within their ownership they have established 142 schools in Attica, the orphanage of Vouliagmeni, the University of Athens, Maraslios Academy, PIKPA Voulas (Pentelis Protection of the Unborn Child Association), the National Library, Rizareios School, Metsovio Polytechnic, the Police Academy of Mesogeion Street, Sotiria Hospital, and Evangelismos Healing Center.

7. It should also be mentioned that the Church of Greece does pay taxes, with the government even now trying to tax the Church as a "charity" organization rather than a "social" institution, as was always done. See more here, here and here. The question here is whether or not the Church should pay for government corruption. Plus, with the Church earning little more than 7 million euros profit in 2008, even if taxed at 100%, would this really affect the economy of Greece all that much? Is it worth closing down dozens of programs the Church implements to help the people of Greece with this money?

Interviewed in the video are Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, Metropolitan Ignatios of Dimitriados, Metropolitan Nicholas of Fthiotidos.