Slovak Parliament OKs Agreement With Holy See

Accord Involves Catholic Education and Financing

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia, JAN. 22, 2004 ( Parliament’s ratification of the agreement between Slovakia and the Holy See on Catholic education is an “amazing sign,” says a spokesman for the bishops’ conference.

“It has been the first act of the Slovak Parliament of this new year,” Monsignor Marian Gavenda told the Italian episcopate’s SIR news agency after Tuesday’s vote.

Ratification came on a 95-30 vote. “Seventy-five plus one would have been enough,” the monsignor said. “It is an amazing sign, because the majority and the opposition have voted together.”

Moreover, the ratification comes at a time of “acute tension and division between the parties, which might presage the fall of the government,” he added.

The agreement on Catholic education is one of four points, explained the spokesman of the Slovak episcopate explained.

“The others are military service, conscientious objection and the financing of the Church, which constitute the basic agreement between the Holy See and the Slovak republic, signed and ratified in 2000,” Monsignor Gavenda said.

The agreement text provides for the introduction of the teaching of the Catholic religion in schools; ethics will be an alternative subject. The Catholic religion will be able to be taught in state schools, particularly in classes where at least 12 students have requested it.

The agreement also guarantees the state’s collaboration in the financing of Catholic schools.

“There could still be problems in the implementation of the agreement, given that in the state’s new administrative structure the schools belong directly to the regions, which still do not have sufficiently clear competencies,” Monsignor Gavenda said.

According to the Church’s Statistical Yearbook, about three-quarters of Slovakia’s 5.4 million inhabitants are baptized Catholics.

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