Greek Orthodox Church condemns banning of confession in schools

Athens, Greece - Greece's powerful Orthodox Church on Wednesday condemned the government's decision to ban confession in schools. The Holy Synod, higher council, of the Church of Greece said it was against the Education Ministry's decision to ban the practice of priests visiting schools to hear students' confessions.

The decision was taken in the wake of appeals by parents and the citizens' Ombudsman, who deemed that schools served as an unfit setting for confessions to take place.

The Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OLME) called the ministry's decision "positive" and "compatible with a new multicultural era."

The 12-member Holy Synod sent a letter to Education and Religion Minister Marietta Giannakou, stressing that "the real interests of the children should be put above any kind of expediency."

In a written statement, the Synod criticized the move as "turning against children themselves and depriving them of a unique opportunity to share with a priest their difficult and occasionally intense problems."

"At a time when transgressions by schoolchildren are increasing at a remarkable rate ... the presence of a spiritual gathering in school to talk to the children and listen to their questions is regarded as completely indispensable," the statement said.

Greek Government spokesperson Theodoros Rousopoulos said "that the Ministry of Education has issued a circular on its decision and it will respond to the complaints of the church in due time."