The Orthodox Church will soon transfer large areas of land to uphold a 40-year-old deal which has so far seen over €10 million paid in state sponsorship towards the wages of rural clergymen.
But the state has so far got nothing in return. Speaking to the media after a House meeting, Church financial controller Yiannis Charilaou said he was confident the deal will be finalised once the state agrees to certain tweaks to the contract.
“It is only a matter of days now,” he said.
An agreement in 1971 between then President Archbishop Makarios and the state foresaw the transfer of some 15,000 donums of church-owned land (one donum is ¼ of an acre) to the government in exchange for the yearly sponsorship of rural priests’ wages.
While the deal was put into action immediately, it was never made official by the Land Registry Department – something the Church and state hope will happen soon once they have ironed out their differences regarding the terms of the contract.
The House also heard that there are no records of the amounts paid prior to 1983. But between then and 2013 the Church has received €101, 401, 627 in state sponsorship money.
Meanwhile, exactly 73% of the land in question is now in the occupied north while the rest is unsuitable for agriculture and only generates a fraction in rent money compared to what the state pays in wages.
At the House meeting, the state requested a supplement of €950,000 to cover the wage sponsorship of 696 rural priests which this year amounts to €5.4m compared to €6.1m in 2012.
Last year, then president Demetris Christofias ordered that after January 2013 the sponsorship be reduced by 15% as part of state cost cutting measures and that a redefinition of what legally constitutes a rural priest takes place. The order also stated that the sponsorship will not apply to new priests after 2013.
According to Charilaou, the Church fully understands the state’s need to save finances and will therefore submit a proposition for the funds to be acquired through other means.
“The land will be transferred once the state has agreed to the proposition.”