MOSCOW, JULY 24, 2009 (Zenit.org).- In a move welcomed by the Orthodox Church, Russia is introducing religion classes in its schools, but Catholicism is not one of the four creeds to be taught.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill praised the initiative announced Tuesday by President Dimitri Medvedev, which programs a choice of classes on Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism, or on a combination of these four creeds, or on secular ethics.
Medvedev explained that children under 10 in 12,000 schools of Russia’s 18 regions would receive these classes.
Patriarch Kirill praised the proposal: “All of the worries that society expressed will be taken care of with this free choice.”
The Russian Orthodox Church has been encouraging the proposal to teach religion in schools, though Church and state are officially separate. Three years ago, some regions took up the proposal and began offering classes on Russian Orthodoxy.
Medvedev pointed to the choice between classes as a response to nonbelievers who opposed the plan.
“Any coercion or pressure would be absolutely inacceptable and counterproductive,” he affirmed. And he added that the proposal is “only” for the four creeds mentioned.
The pilot program to begin next year will cover some 20% of Russian schools.
It is calculated that some 80% of Russians are members of the Orthodox Church, though perhaps only as many as 15% to 20% are practicing.
Some minority Christians have lamented being excluded from the program to teach religion in schools.