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Saturday, October 3, 1998 Published at 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK

World: Europe

Stuffy robes ruin marriage chances, say Greek priests.

Archbishop Christodoulos in traditional robes - but is it a turn off?

Greece's Orthodox priests say their long black robes, pipe hats and overgrown beards are ruining their marriage prospects.

And they are calling for a makeover in an attempt to increase their chances of attracting a wife.

Father Efstathios Kollas, head of the union of parish priests, says only 3,000 of Greece's 11,000 priests are married.

"If the robes create an obstacle for finding a wife, and you know they do, then the church's leadership must do something to modernise our appearance," he added.

Father Kollas, who favours a more simplified frock, argues that the frumpy cassocks are also discouraging educated Greeks from becoming men of the cloth.

He says many candidates for the priesthood fear they will repel potential partners with such attire - not to mention the obligatory long whiskers.

Archbishop says priests can wear earrings

The priests' plea to shed their head-to-foot robes comes ahead of a meeting of the Holy Synod, the Greek Church's governing body.

But it is not yet certain whether Father Kollas's call to revamp the strict dress code will come up for discussion.

The 10-day meeting to begin on Tuesday will be presided over by Archbishop Christodoulos, who at 59 is the youngest archbishop to head the Greek Orthodox Church.

Since his election in April, he has stressed the need to modernise the church, a bastion of conservatism, without abandoning its age old traditions.

In a surprise move last month, he even told young men they could wear earrings when they visit their pastors.

More than 90% of all Greeks are baptised Greek Orthodox, which is the country's official religion.

Unlike Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy permits priests to marry.

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