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GOCSA’s response to joint celebration

29 January 2018

Confusion was recently created by an inaccurate report in an interstate newspaper on the position of the Greek Orthodox Community of SA in regards to the call by the South Australian Chief Justice Chris Kourakis for a joint celebration of the National Day of Greece by GOCSA and Archdiocese under the auspices of the Greek Consul. The Greek Tribune urges the Chief Justice to get an accurate translation of recent interstate (Neos Kosmos 6/12/2018) report, in which he appears to be criticizing GOCSA's response. To clarify the matter, the Greek Tribune publishes below the letter sent by GOCSA's President Bill Gonis to the Chief Justice Chris Kourakis:

"In response to your letter of 28 May 2018, GOCSA has consulted widely beyond our Community. Our challenge is to assist the Consul-General in SA to apply the secular polity of Australia and that of the European Union of which Greece is a member.

During the Greek National Day celebrations conducted in Australia, the Hellenic Republic should separate the secular and Church services with Australian law taking precedence over Greek law. This includes noting the Autocephalous Church has since 1976 held equivalent recognition as a denomination with the Archdiocese of Australia.

The Church of Greece has no such standing in Australia. Nor is it able to pursue any Church practice of Greece in Australia or confer/extend that Church’s constitutional rights to the Archdiocese of Australia via the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

The Archdiocese rejects your view that they do not exercise any civil authority over public spaces in Australia, as demonstrated in 2017 when it usurped the conduct of the National Day Celebration at the War Memorial. Despite the SA Consul-General’s pre-emptive registration in 2018 to conduct a secular War Memorial service, the Archdiocese in defiance conducted a religious service at the Cross of Remembrance.

The Consul-General has the onus to make a determination of not permitting any religious service at the secular state event by upholding the view that: "Ecclesiastical authorities do not exercise any civil authority over public spaces in Australia."

The Trisagion religious service can be performed in the respective Church precincts of the Archdiocese and Autocephalous Churches and not at the War Memorial. By accepting each Church as equivalent under Australian law, the Consul-General in SA simultaneously safeguards GOCSA’s independent authority under its Constitution.

The Archdiocese and Auto-cephalous Church are to conduct the religious Trisagion service in their respective Churches prior to the commencement of the Hellenic Republic’s secular War Memorial Service. Clerics from the Archdiocese and Autocephalous Churches may attend the secular service as observers.

The Greek National Day is to be celebrated as a Greek State event in accord with Australian secular protocol. GOCSA and the Archdiocese are to respect the Consul General’s sole leadership role during a secular Greek State event.

GOCSA welcomes the opportunity to assist the Consul General in SA to achieve a mutually satisfactory outcome for the broader Greek community".

Readers are reminded that a joint celebration at North Terrace memorial was tried in the 80's but it didn't succeed because religious differences were brought into it - certainly not by GOCSA.

If a joint celebration is to ever succeed in the future, people must accept the fact that there are two separate, legitimate Greek church authorities in Adelaide and that's not going to change. We all need to try and understand pluralism and multiculturalism and learn to accept and respect other people's cultural, religious and political beliefs. There are many different Christian denominations within the Australian society. Does that cause a problem to Australia Day or ANZAC Day celebrations? Absolutely not! Then, let's just learn to live like the rest of Australians, be tolerant to everyone and most importantly keep religious beliefs completely out of secular life.


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