CATHOLICS in Greece, both clergy and laity, are gravely concerned about the proposed Constitution's first article — dealing with the country's official religion— which alters the law about proselytism.
The Greek people will vote on September 29 to accept or reject the new Constitution, which has been drawn up by the governnient headed by Mr. Papadopoulos,a former colonel who became Premier in December after thwarting an attempt by King Constantine to overthrow the military regime which took power in April last year. The first draft of the new Constitution had left unchanged the first article of the previous Constitution of 1952, which read: "The official religion of Greece is the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ. Proselytism and any other interference against the official religion is forbidden."
The present government, however, under pressure from the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church, has now changed the first article to read: "The official religion of Greece is the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ. Proselytism, directly or indirectly or in any other way, and other interference against the official religion is forbidden."
The difference of the two texts is so striking that even Orthodox churchmen found it completely unfair.
Mr. Nicholas Delendas, president of the Catholic men's organisation in Greece, wrote to the Prime Minister and other officials protesting about the new wording. The Catholic bishops and the Catholic weekly newspaper Katholiki protested against the new draft. Expressing the Catholic point of view, Mr. Delendas wrote last month in the daily paper Akropolis: "For Greek Roman Catholics, whose patriotism is known to everyone here in Greece, the prohibition of proselytism has and always had a purely theoretical meaning.
"They have never exercised, or thought to exercise, proselytism and never had any reasons for doing so against the Church of their country, which they respect, and against their fellow-countrymen, with whom they live in full harmony. "Prohibition, however, of proselytism 'directly br indirectly or in any other way,' as it is written in the new Constitution endorsed by the government makes things very difficult. Who can give an interpretation of the words 'indirectly and in any other way'?