New Greek PM Alexis Tsipras is an atheist
Religion was pointedly sidelined when the country’s new leader – Alexis Tsipras, 40, – informed Archbishop Ieronymos II, Primate of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece, that his services would not be required at the PM’s swearing in ceremony, which took place yesterday.
The left-wing Syriza leader, according to this report, met with Ieronymos to tell him not to bother to turn up at the inauguration swearing-in ceremony of the new government at Maximos Mansion:
Because the oath of cabinet members would be political and not religious.
However, he did accommodate the Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod in the event that some of the new ministers would like to take a religious oath as well.
Tsipras Wiki entry says he is an atheist.
The Economist‘s Erasmus blog points out:
It’s hard to overstate what a rupture this marks with the ceremonial culture of Greece. For as long as anybody can remember, every senior office-holder, from socialists to right-wing dictators, has assumed the post with a ritual involving Bibles, crosses and often holy water, sprinkled about with a sprig of basil.
The opening words of the Greek constitution recall the theological formulas of the early church which predate by the Hellenic state by more than 1,300 years: ‘In the name of the holy, consubstantial and indivisible Trinity …’
This intertwining of religion and state dates from the earliest years of Greek independence.
Nikos Kosmidis, a Syriza activist from northern Greece who is also a devout Orthodox Christian, said his party leader’s choice of a secular oath was, paradoxically, an act of respect for the church and its integrity. Rather than appropriating religious rituals for political ends, as previous leaders had done, he was ‘acknowledging the sanctity of church services and behaving with respect to all of us (practising Christians)…Instead of him taking a false oath, we will offer him our sincere prayers’. Amen.
The new Greek government is a coalition of two very unlikely bedfellows – Syriza and the Independent Greeks.
While Syriza founds its vision of a new Greece in socialism, promising to write off national debt, hugely increase public investment in services and the welfare state and raise employment levels, the Independent Greeks have taken a more populist stance by opposing immigration and multiculturalism and calling for a greater role for the Orthodox Church in education.