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Atheist Greek PM Tsipras Holds 'Tense Meeting' With Russian Orthodox Leader; Patriarch Kirill Tells Him Only 'Spiritual Base' Brings Social Justice

Alexis Tsipras
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras being sworn in on Jan. 26, 2015. |

The openly atheist Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, held on Thursday a "tense meeting" with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Kirill told Tsipras that only a "spiritual base" can bring social justice to a nation.

AFP reported that the meeting occurred in Moscow, during Tsipras' state visit to Russia.

After congratulating Tsipras on his election victory in January, Kirill said:

"I hope that your government will do all it can to preserve the spiritual foundations and morality of your people."

He added: "Don't forget that being Christian is not a political stance," and said that only a "spiritual base" could deliver true social justice in a country.

Tsipras, who the report said was "clearly exasperated," replied by thanking Kirill for taking the time to "do some research on my personal convictions."

Kirill and the Greek PM found common ground when they discussed the value of tolerance and a drive for greater social solidarity in society, however.

Tsipras was sworn in on January 26 after winning the elections with his left-wing Syriza party, and became Greece's first openly atheist leader. At the ceremony he broke from tradition and decided to take a civil, rather than a biblical oath.

The CIA World Factbook states that as much as 98 percent of the country's population officially belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church.

Back in February, a Greek church from the village of Asprokampos, Corinthia, claimed that a statue of Jesus Christ had begun "weeping" in the form of an "oily liquid," ever since Tsipras and Syriza came to power.

The church of St. Nicholas drew crowds of people who flocked to see the weeping icon, with church officials reportedly calling on scientists and Greek Orthodox superiors to come and investigate the occurrence.

Yiannis Baboulias, a Greek investigative journalist, said, however, that stories of weeping icons are not uncommon in Greece.

"The weeping icon is an urban legend that resurfaces every now and again in Greece. Stories like this happen all the time, and this one is really funny," Baboulias said.

"What is really happening is simply that the paint on the icon is starting to leak due to environmental changes," he offered.

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