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Greece poised to legalize same-sex marriage, bucking Orthodox tradition

Greece is poised to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, despite urgent warnings from the Greek Orthodox Church.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, an ostensibly center-right politician, is relying on a coalition with left-wing lawmakers to push through the legislation next week without support from a significant faction of his own New Democracy party.

The proposal has been vehemently opposed by the Greek Orthodox Church — the “prevailing religion” of Greece claiming approximately 90% of the population.

The Holy Synod of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece ruled in a unanimous decision last month that the implementation of same-sex marriage and adoption of children by same-sex couples is inadmissible.

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Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis attended the Orthodox Feast Mass held at the Fener Greek Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey.  (Can Erok/dia images via Getty Images)

“Obviously, the State legislates, but this parameter neither deprives the Church of its freedom of speech nor exempts the Church from the duty to inform the faithful people, nor can it indicate to the Church what constitutes sin,” the report from the Holy Synod reads. “The Church does not legislate and is not responsible for the laws. If it remains silent, however, it bears a grave responsibility and abolishes itself.”

The Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus went so far as to declare, “Those who vote for it cannot remain members of the church.”

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Kyriakos Mitsotakis talks with the media in Brussels

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks with reporters at the end of the EU Summit in Brussels, Belgium. (Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

Mitsotakis has characterized the legislation as a matter of equality, to avoid “having two classes of citizens and certainly not to have children of a lesser God.”

In a speech to his cabinet last month, the prime minister made no apologies for disregarding theology in his goals.

“I appreciate the perspectives of the Church, which I fully respect. This government has, in fact, addressed long-standing practical matters concerning the clergy,” Mitsotakis said. “However, let me be clear on this matter: we are discussing the decisions of the Greek State, unrelated to theological beliefs.”

Greek Orthodox worshippers in Athens before Easter

Greek Orthodox worshipers before the Apokathelosis, a key part of Orthodox Easter, at the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin in Penteli in northern Athens. (ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The controversy provoked by the legislation highlights a growing divide between secular Greek leaders and the spiritual identity of Greece’s population.

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“Historically, we’ve had divergent opinions with the Church on civil marriage, cremation, and the omission of religion from Greek IDs,” Mitsotakis said. “Experience has shown that these changes were necessary. They didn’t harm society or the collaboration between the State and the Church, and I am confident the same will apply now.”

The prime minister and a coalition vote are expected to pass the proposal on Feb. 15.

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