2005.06.03 The Tablet:
Ukraine Churches unite to keep RE.
CATHOLIC AND ORTHODOX Churches in Ukraine, in a rare display of
unity, have condemned government plans to replace school religion
with compulsory ethics classes in primary grades.
Appealing to the country's president, Viktor Yushchenko, the Churches
say freedom of conscience is being ignored. "The time has come for
independent Ukraine to break with totalitarian Soviet tradition, in
which parents and children are Christian at home but must be atheists
or indifferent to Christianity at school," they said.
The appeal, signed by leaders of Ukraine's Catholic and Orthodox
Churches, said the planned classes for seven- and eight-year-old
children should be replaced by an ecumenical "Christian morality"
course currently used in the country's western districts.
The head of the Greek Catholic Church's education commission, Bishop
Sofron Mudriy of Ivano-Frankovsk, said Ukraine's Council of Churches
and Religious Organisations would discuss how to introduce the
alternative Christian course nationwide. He said it had "nothing in
common" with catechism classes, which should be conducted outside
school as a "denominational matter".
Catholic and Orthodox leaders have been bitterly divided over rival
property and jurisdictional claims since Ukraine's 1991 independence
from the Soviet Union. They were also divided over last winter's
disputed presidential election when the largest Orthodox Church,
loyal to the Moscow patriarchate, refused to sign several joint
pro-democracy appeals. These Orthodox leaders have opposed calls for
a Greek Catholic patriarchate and for the planned relocation this
autumn of the Greek Catholic Church's headquarters from Lviv to Kiev.
However, in a late May statement, the Greek Catholic synod said all
church leaders were united in their "outrage" that the government's
planned ethics course would teach "safe sex" methods.