Greek Establishment Bans Church From Schools "in recognition of Greece's emergence as a multicultural society"
Greece Church Barred from Hearing Student Confessions at School
By The Associated Press
Fri, Sep. 15 2006 ATHENS, Greece (AP) State schools reopened in Greece with the country's Orthodox church barred for the first time from hearing students' confessions on school premises.
Senior clergy in the powerful institution angrily oppose the new regulation, which the conservative government says was introduced partly in recognition of Greece's emergence as a multicultural society.
Nearly a million immigrants including tens of thousands of Muslims from Pakistan and Albania are estimated to live in Greece, a country of about 11 million.
The church's governing Holy Synod said in a statement just ahead of the new school year, which began Monday, that the decision "hurts the children themselves, depriving them of the unique opportunity to convey to a priest their most difficult and, at times, explosive problems." Students' interests "must be placed above any other concern," church leaders said.
The church is rarely challenged in Greece, where some 97 percent of the native-born population is baptized Orthodox, and past governments have shied away from backing a full constitutional separation of church and state.
Many Greeks view the church as a guardian of the nation's values and heritage.
But secular pressures are now growing. Church critics are challenging the institution's privileged position, which includes generous tax concessions and government payment of priests' salaries.
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