Monday, December 2, 2002

From the NYTimes (LRR):

Greek Orthodox priests itching to change their clothes

When the Rev. Ioannis Melissaris puts on his long black robe, and then another black robe over it, and then a tall black hat to top it all off, he knows that he is honoring tradition and has no problem with that.But he also knows that he is going to swelter, and maybe stumble, and possibly snag a sleeve in a car or bus door. It has happened to Father Melissaris, a Greek Orthodox priest here, too many times already, and, he said, "I can't deal with it anymore.".....

For that reason and others, many Greek Orthodox priests here, like Fathers Melissaris and Moulatsiotis, are clamoring for a makeover, or at least a few alterations.Some want permission to shed the outer layer — "the Superman cape," as Father Moulatsiotis described it — when they are not performing a formal church service. Others want a green light to go almost completely casual once they step into the streets......

The movement has acquired enough momentum that in early October, at a meeting of church leaders, Archbishop Christodoulos proposed a discussion of the clerical dress code and grooming expectations. His brethren in the Holy Synod balked, deciding that it could wait.

But the issue is unlikely to go away, because it ultimately concerns more than mere convenience, raising questions about the overall image that Greek Orthodox priests should have and the right distance between them and their parishioners.Outside of Greece, in Western Europe and North America, many Greek Orthodox priests dress much as their Roman Catholic counterparts do, with no complaints from superiors.But in Greece, where a vast majority of people belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, the dress code has changed little in five centuries, and priests are expected to obey it.They can now shorten their beards, but cannot eliminate them. In public, they must wear all the requisite layers and tiers or risk punishment: perhaps a suspension, or a temporary loss of salary.





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