Orthodox priest in Greece refuses to baptize Romani children

10 September 1998

On May 18, 1998, the Greek daily Eleftherotypia reported that the vicar of St. Nicolas's church in Mytilini refused to baptise two Romani children. The vicar claimed that he could not baptise anyone who did not have a birth certificate. Many Roma in Greece do not have such documents. The children's godfather-to-be said that the process of obtaining the necessary papers is difficult for all Greek citizens but is especially so for Roma, due to high rates of illiteracy. For example, in order to obtain registration papers, an applicant must have papers certifying their parents' marriage. Many Roma have traditional marriages and therefore have not obtained official marriage documents. The same priests reportedly have baptised illegal non-Orthodox immigrants who also do not have birth certificates. Eleftherotypia reported on May 23, 1998, that a local priest had been willing to disregard the rules of the region's metropolitan bishop and take it upon himself to baptise the two children. All this priest asked for was a declaration from the parents that the children had not been baptised before.


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