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Our View: The Church should not have a say in the formulation of civil laws

THE PRACTICE of inviting representatives of the Church hierarchy to House committee meetings to give the Church’s views on bills under discussion does not seem a very good idea. If we were living in a theocratic state the presence of clergymen at the discussion of bills would have been justified but the Cyprus Republic is a secular state in which the laws are the responsibility of the elected representatives of the people.

Then again, politicians often pandered to the Orthodox Church. Former President Clerides, during both his terms, sought the approval and blessing of the Archbishop before naming his education minister – an absurd practice that in no way improved educational standards. Even the communist Demetris Christofias, secretly sought the Archbishop’s approval for at least the second education minister he appointed.

President Anastasiades has also been pandering to the Archbishop, while earlier this week he took the unprecedented step of meeting the Holy Synod in order to brief its members about the Cyprus problem and the state of the country. Why the bishops were entitled to a presidential briefing nobody could explain. Does Anastasiades want to give the Church a say in politics or is it his way of keeping the priests on side?

The president and the legislature appear to be setting a trend. A month ago the Bishop of Paphos Georgios appeared before a House committee and informed deputies that the Church considered the use of sperm or eggs from third parties, in reproduction, as adultery; he also objected to the freezing of eggs and expressed disapproval of the use of surrogate mothers. The embarrassed committee chairman said that even if we disagreed with the Bishop, “we were obliged to listen.”

This should not be the case. Priests should offer the members of their flock spiritual and moral guidance on these issues, but have no right to expect to have a say in the formulation of civil laws that affect all citizens.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, a representative of the Holy Synod expressed Church objections to cremation at a meeting of the House interior committee that discussed the issue.

Again, the Church should not have been invited because even if it disapproves of cremation it cannot deprive members of other faiths, atheists and agnostics of the right to opt for it.

Cremation should be available in Cyprus (the only EU country that does not have a crematorium) even if the Church insists that Orthodox Christians must be buried.

This is what happens as result of politicians deferring to the Church and seeking its views in matters in which, rationally and constitutionally, it should have no say. Do the politicians need to be reminded that the Republic is a secular state?

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