Athens, September 8, 2016
According to the new circular of the nations’ Ministry of Education, teachers’ and students’ joint morning prayers, beginning this year, have ceased to be mandatory in all educational institutions of Greece, reports RIA-Novosti, with reference to the Greek news agency Newsone.
Orthodoxy is the state religion in Greece; ninety-eight percent of its citizens belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. At the same time, the constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all citizens.
Before the beginning of the academic year all academic institutions of Greece received the circular from the Ministry of Education, which for the first time did not mention morning prayer. “The daily school program begins at 8 AM… At 8:10 after the bell the entrances are closed and the students gather in their assigned places, with all teachers supervising them,” states the ministry’s circular.
However, the Greek Orthodox Church insists that morning prayer in schools not be abolished. According to the statement of the Church’s Permanent Synod, common prayer amongst students and teachers is in accordance with that which was stipulated in a presidential decree of 1998, which has not been annulled.
On Monday, September 5, 2016 the first meeting of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece took place under the chairmanship of His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, reports the Greek publication Romfea.
A special service for the beginning of the work of the Holy Synod was served before the meeting. Then His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos welcomed the new members of the Holy Synod and wished a prosperous outcome of their work in a spirit of love and cooperation.
One of the meeting’s key themes was that of common prayer in educational institutions.
“On the occasion of the beginning of the school year the Church of Greece urges all to pray to God that He would strengthen every member of the school communities—teachers, instructors, students, administrative representatives, and parents. In particular the Greek Church calls for prayer for the leadership of the Ministry of Education, that with its assistance Greek schools could stand against this universal crisis from which our people, a quality and comprehensive education, and support and optimism all suffer.
At the school desk is shaped our homeland’s tomorrow—brighter, knowing its history and glorious traditions, and ready to confront the modern world and not lose its identity.
We call upon Greek society to support every educational level by all possible means, considering it a matter of national importance.
In this matter the Church is always ready to help in promoting the intellectual development of our students, supporting them in all needs.
Finally, in connection with publications in which it is mentioned that school prayer is canceled, we clarify that morning prayer in schools is provided for in accordance with Presidential Decree 201/1998. The same order is repeated in the Ministry of Education’s circular which reminds us that 'the directives of Presidential Decree 201/1998 are in effect…'”
In particular, in accordance with article 13, paragraph 5 of Presidential Decree 201/1998 it is stipulated that “before the beginning of lessons, common prayer between students and teachers is to be carried out in the schoolyard. This responsibility is placed upon the teachers on duty…”