Greek Orthodox Church Defends Religious Profession on ID Papers

Archbishop Christodoulos Calls for Referendum

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ATHENS, Greece, AUG. 29, 2001 ( The Greek Orthodox Church took another step in its battle against the Socialist government´s decision to eliminate the mention of religion on identity papers.

Archbishop Christodoulos collected 3 million signatures, 27% of the population, in favor of the Church´s position, and called for a referendum on the matter. The executive power argues that the mention of religion is unconstitutional and considers the matter closed.

Supported by the millions of signatures favoring the mention of religious affiliation, the Orthodox Church on Tuesday demanded that the government of Prime Minister Kostas Simitis call a referendum for a decision on the issue.

Following their victory in the legislative elections of April 2000, the Socialists eliminated the mention of religious affiliation from the identity document, in line with European Union policies on privacy. Now, the government argues that the Council of State labeled the mention of religion unconstitutional.

Led by Archbishop Christodoulos, the Orthodox Church organized mass popular protests in Salonica and Athens against the Socialist reform. The Church began to collect signatures in parishes last September.

«The government has no other alternative than to organize a referendum or draft a new law,» the archbishop said. The Conservative opposition also insists on a new law, which will make the mention of religion optional.

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