The head of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos, has lashed out against changes introduced by the Education Ministry to religious courses taught in schools, saying they were unacceptable and a danger to society.
Education Minister Nikos Filis has insisted that religion classes must change and be more like religious studies, rather than be taught on the basis of catechism.
Ieronymos, however, dismissed the ministry’s endeavor as a fruitless affair that will cause great damage to education and provoke a rupture in relations between Church and state. He appealed to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to “put an end to this effort, and postpone any such initiative,” and called for a “serious” discussion between the Church and the state.
“Religion courses in school are indeed in a crisis and there is a need for all us, Church and state, to cooperate to make the relevant decisions [but] not within a time frame of five or 10 days.”
Filis shot down the criticism, saying the changes were the result of a pilot program and a months-long dialogue between teachers, theologians and church representatives.
He also stressed that religion classes are like all other lessons, and that the responsibility for school curriculum lies with the Institute of Educational Policy.
The Church of Greece, for its part, has expressed its reservations about pupils being taught about anything other than the Orthodox faith.
Filis, who has come under repeated fire from church officials since he took office over his secularist views, bemoaned the fact that the demand to change the outlook on religion in school from one that emphasizes catechism to one that promotes the knowledge of religions should cause such “incomprehensible acrimony and fearmongering.”
“It’s wrong,” he said, adding, nonetheless, that the Education Ministry will always be open to dialogue with the Church of Greece and with the archbishop himself.