Pope defends religious education in Spanish public schools

- John Paul II today received Josep Pique I Camps, the Spanish Foreign Minister, at the height of a media campaign in Spain against religious education in public schools, and state funding of religious confessions.
A Vatican press statement said "the validity of the framework of cooperation ensured by the agreements between the Holy See and the Spanish State in 1979" was confirmed, during the papal meeting and later during Camps' meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State.
The media campaign against religious education gained ground after Church institutions, as well as other organizations, were defrauded of millions of dollars by the Gescartera investment agency.
Socialist and United Left Communist leaders and some media criticized the fact that these Catholic institutions, most of which are charities, tried to make their private donations and assets profitable in the stock market.
In declaring their taxes, Spanish citizens may allocate a part to the Catholic Church or other religious denomination. If this amount does not cover the fixed expenses of the Church -- primarily priests' salaries and the maintenance of worship and charity activities -- the state covers the difference. Secular circles now want to eliminate this system.
Another issue revolves around two public-school teachers of the Catholic faith who have not had their contracts renewed because they married divorced persons. This too triggered wide criticism.

The current Church-state agreement establishes that teachers of the Catholic faith must be appointed by the Church and paid by the state. The agreement also states that a teacher's religion lessons, as well as his life, must be in accordance with Catholic doctrine.
The Vatican press statement, signed by spokesman JoaquĆ­n Navarro-Valls, reveals that during the meetings, "interreligious dialogue and the struggle against terrorism" were also discussed.

Spain has endured attacks by ETA terrorists since the 1960s. The separatists have maintained contacts with Muslim terrorist groups over the past 20 years.