Catholic Church advocates right to religious education

Caracas, Venezuela - The Venezuelan Bishops' Conference (CEV) Thursday urged to defend the right to religious school education in the country.

In a communiqué, CEV rejected recent criticisms against religious education in public schools. The body also rebutted the regulations on religious education included the draft education organic law.

In the document, the Catholic Church leaders warned that the Venezuelan State has an "obligation" to permit and make possible religious education in schools.

In their communiqué, the Venezuelan episcopate backed the value of religious teaching and advocated the citizens' rights to profess freely a religion. "The Church has a mandate from Jesus Christ to spread its message of salvation."

They claimed the Catholic Church "has a right to communicate and teach the Christian faith to those willing to know it."

CEV stressed "the highest moral and civic values" transmitted by Catholic education.

Venezuelan "education laws have granted for decades the religious education in public schools, as set forth in Article 50 of the current Education Law." Therefore, they claimed they did not understand the reasons why religious education in public schools has come under attack now.

The episcopate added that the Venezuelan State has a laic nature, and that it should not force anyone "to profess a specific religion."

They added, however, that the Venezuelan State does have a duty to "make possible the exercise of citizens' rights, and therefore it should allow and make possible religious education in schools."

The document insisted that religious teaching in public schools is highly significant, as it offers children whose parents accept religious teaching the possibility "to know their greatness as human beings and children of God, as well as the compliance with the highest moral and civic values."

CEV noted that "the teaching of the Catholic religion is both an obligation and a right of the Catholic Church, families, children, and youth in Venezuela, just like in other countries, in the framework of freedom of religion."

They reminded that "the Venezuelan State in 1992 signed the Agreement on School Religious Education, intended to facilitate the exercise of the rights of Catholic children to have a better understanding of their religion and therefore become better citizens, without running counter to the rights of those who may freely choose not to take religion education."

Finally, CEV urged Catholic parents "to defend the right their children have to school religion education." They also called upon Catholic teachers to "meet their obligation to be religious teachers," and asked priests and others with a pastoral role "to increase their presence in schools."

"Let us remind you that knowledge and teaching of our religion is a fundamental right."