Caracas (Fides Service) - With regard to a debate on religious instruction in state schools and a proposed new law on education, the Bishops of Venezuela issued a statement on religious instruction in schools dated March 8 in which they say “every person has to inalienable right to be instructed in his or her religion and to practice it in freedom” and “the state has the duty to facilitate citizens knowledge and practice of the religion of their choice”.
In the statement the Bishops recall that the Church has the mandate to communicate the message of Salvation and therefore it has “the right to communicate and teach the Christian faith to all who wish to hear the message of Jesus Christ ”. The Bishops recognise that Venezuela as a secular country “does not oblige its citizens to profess any specific religion” but it has the duty to guarantee citizens’ freedom to exercise their rights and therefore to make it possible to guarantee religious instruction in schools. The Bishops say it is highly convenient to guarantee religious instruction because it helps children whose parents accept this teaching “to realise their dignity as human persons and children of God and the observance of the highest moral and civic values”.
For all these reasons the Bishops call on parents and Catholic representatives to “defend children’s rights to religious instruction in schools”; Catholic parents to “fulfil responsibility their mission to be educators in the faith”; parish priests and pastoral workers “to be more present in schools”, authorities to “appreciate religious instruction and promote respect for laws and regulations with which it is consecrated and protected”. (RG) (Agenzia Fides 13/3/2006 - Righe 35, parole 469)