November 7, 2011

VATICAN CITY – A holistic education of children and young people must include religious education in accordance with the wishes of the children's parents, Pope Benedict said.

The teaching of religion in public schools, "far from signifying that the state assumes or imposes a specific religious creed, indicates a recognition of religion as a necessary value for the holistic formation of the person," the pope said Oct. 31.

Welcoming Almir Franco de Sa Barbuda as Brazil's new ambassador, the pope noted the agreement signed between the Holy See and Brazil in 2008 to allow religious education in public schools.

The motivation, he said, was not to give Catholicism a special privilege.

Rather, it was to respond to the rights of parents to choose how their children should be educated and to give Brazil a new generation of citizens formed with a sense of morality and ethics, he said.

The pope said offering students a "generic sociology of religions" class instead of a Catholic religious education course isn't good enough, because "there is no such thing as a generic, non-confessional religion."

Catholic religion classes offered to public school children do not violate the separation of Church and state, he said.

"Healthy secularism must not consider religion simply as an individual sentiment that can be relegated to the private sphere," but as a reality in the lives of citizens and society.