March 13, 2005

Presidential inauguration



As Socialist former foreign minister Karolos Papoulias was preparing to be sworn in today, before Parliament, as Greece's sixth president since the restoration of democracy in 1974, an embarrassing controversy was growing over the Church's role in the ceremony.

Fearing dissent among its more anti-clerical elements, Papoulias's PASOK party was forced yesterday to issue a circular instructing all Socialist MPs to attend the noon event.

"As it is easy to understand, any absence could lead to various comments and interpretations," Dimitris Reppas, secretary of the party's parliamentary group, wrote to MPs. "Your attendance will serve as a display of respect to our institutions, as well as to Karolos Papoulias."

Nevertheless, Theodoros Koliopanos, a former PASOK deputy public works minister, said he would not be there.

Koliopanos objects to the fact that Papoulias, 76, will be sworn in by Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the sex and corruption scandal-bedeviled Church of Greece. While suspending one bishop and forcing a second to resign, Christodoulos - who has himself been implicated in the scandal - has refused to step down.

Synaspismos Left Coalition has already stated that its MPs will not attend the event, in protest at Christodoulos's role in it, and has called for the president to be sworn in at a secular ceremony led by the Parliament speaker. Nevertheless, the party insisted it by no means intended to snub Papoulias.

Posted by kshaw at March 13, 2005 07:11 AM