Government reassures Church it wants dialogue about religion courses in school

Government reassures Church it wants dialogue about religion courses in school

The government sought on Thursday to reassure Church officials that it is serious in its commitment to engage in dialogue over changes to the way courses on religion are taught at school.

While a meeting between the Archbishop Ieronymos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras late Wednesday suggested that the government and the Church had buried the hatchet, albeit temporarily, comments made on behalf of Education Minister Nikos Filis by his political office that “changes will proceed as planned,” prompted senior members of the clergy to express their reservations.

“The conclusion is that I can reach no conclusion,” said Bishop Nikolaos of Mesogaia, who also attended the meeting between Ieronymos and Tsipras.

Referring to reports that Panos Kammenos, the leader of coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), had shed tears during the meeting, Nikolaos said, “We don’t need words and tears, but actions.”

However, Kathimerini understands that government spokesperson Olga Gerovasili insisted on Thursday that the comments ascribed to Filis were taken out of context. And in a statement, she reassured Church officials that “whatever was said at the meeting between the prime minister and the archbishop about religion courses, stands.”

Nonetheless, the spokesman of the Church of Greece, Bishop Ignatios of Dimitriada, struck a more conciliatory tone on Thursday, expressing confidence in Tsipras regarding his intention for dialogue.

“The climate [at the meeting], as was conveyed to Church authorities, creates the conditions for us to trust the prime minister, and [the impression] that the dialogue will be an honest one with results,” Ignatios said, clarifying, however, that the Church’s stance from now on will hinge on the “progress of the work of the Dialogue Committee” regarding the status of religion courses at schools.

Ieronymos said after his meeting with Tsipras on Wednesday that both men had agreed to continue to discuss the makeup of religion classes and that, for this year, the textbooks used so far would not be changed.

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