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News 08 Sep 14

Catholic Masses for Croatian Pupils Criticised

The Croatian custom of starting the new school year by taking pupils to mass at a Catholic church has triggered compaints from secular campaigners.

Sven Milekic

Protagora, a group that campaigns for secular values, criticised on Monday what it said was the widespread practice of Croatian schools taking pupils to mass on the first day of the new school year.

In an open letter to the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports and Croatian media, the group argued that it led to “segregation” between those pupils who went to mass and those who did not.

It also argued that it could cause “discrimination” against those who did not attend church by stigmatising them as a non-Catholic minority.

Protagora’s statement was sparked by the announcement last week that a medical high school in the city of Osijek would start its school year with a Catholic holy mass.

“This case is no exception,” Protagora argued.

“The school director is following a widespread practice among educational institutions in Croatia,” it said.

After the public criticism, the school changed its announcement, saying that going to the mass was not compulsory.

Protagora said that activities like this brought the Catholic Church into schools and promoted ideas that are not shared by all pupils or their parents.

The Catholic Church has a strong social and political influence in Croatia due to the fact that the vast majority of citizens consider themselves Catholics.

According to the 2011 state census, 86.28 per cent of Croatians are Catholics, with Orthodox believers at 4.44 per cent and atheists at 3.81 per cent.

According to a contract between Croatia and the Vatican, the Catholic Church is guaranteed a special place in education. Under the contract, pupils get Catholic religious education in both primary and senior schools.

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