By Petros Rigatos, Lawyer attached to the Supreme Court, Legal Advisor of the Holy Metropolis of Patra
The current Penal Code provides for a special chapter, “Ζ,” which contains special provisions for the protection of the legal interest of religious peace. Furthermore, however, most of the Criminal Law theorists accept that the above chapter protects many legal interests and above all religion, as an essential element of public life, religious peace and the religious sentiment of citizens.
In this way, subjects of protection of the provisions of this chapter are religion as the faith of man towards the Creator (198 P.C.), the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ and any other known religion (199 P.C.), the freedom of exercise of worship (200 P.C.) and the feeling of devotion to the dead (201 P.C.). Article 198 P.C stipulates that “imprisonment for up to two years shall be imposed on anyone who publicly and maliciously abuses God in any way.”
By the second paragraph of the same article, “anyone who publicly blasphemizes out of lack of respect for the divine shall be punished with up to six (6) months imprisonment or shall be imposed a fine of up to € 3,000.”
According to article 199, “anyone who publicly and maliciously reviles the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ or any other religion tolerated in Greece shall be punished with imprisonment for up to two years.”
All the contemporary forms of attack to the Orthodox Church on the Internet, as well as insults through profane films and theatrical works, come under this case; these forms fall under the concept of insulting language, as referred in Article 199, which punishes public and malicious insult of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ or another religion tolerated in Greece in any way.
According to article 201 on the insult of the dead, “anyone who arbitrarily removes a dead or parts of him/her, from those who are entitled to keep his/her remains, or acts abusively and in an inappropriate way in relation to the remains or to the grave, shall be punished with imprisonment for up to two years.”
Strong pressure is being imposed by strong forces to abolish Articles 198, 199 and 201 of the Penal Code, as well as the whole chapter Z of the P.C. regarding religious peace. We must join our voice together with the loud voice of the Standing Holy Synod of our Church, which has already sent a relevant protest letter.
The immediate intervention of all the health-conscious political and intellectual forces of the country is required, so that the Legislative drafting committe for the revision of the Penal Code not to proceed with the abolition of the above provisions.
It is imperative to preserve the cultural and spiritual identity of our people and the degradation of Greek society from its timeless values must cease.
Powerful men should stop dismantling the spiritual fabric of Orthodox Greece and start provoking the God-friendly feelings of our people. We wonder if the weakening of Orthodoxy in the critical period experienced in our country and especially the moment that the Muslim sword of Damocles is being sharpened and the religious fanaticism in the neighboring country is strengthened, is an offer to the shattered Hellenism, especially in Greece.
Let us not rush to demolish, either voluntarily or inadvertently, the building of the Orthodox Church by taking various measures.
Typically, we mistakenly think that we will succeed. We forget that the cornerstone of our Church is not a human structure, but the Lord God Himself. In the end, whatever measure we take, will not be able to crush the Church and that because it is not a human creation. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.