Subject: Lusa: RC church leaders behaving like 'opposition party', says PM

East Timor: RC church leaders behaving like 'opposition party', says PM

Dili, April 13 (Lusa) - Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has accused leaders of East Timor's Roman Catholic Church of attempting to play the role of political opposition in its recent criticism of a government pilot scheme to end compulsory religious education in schools.

In a statement released Tuesday, Alkatiri responded to charges made this week by Timor's two Catholic bishops that he had caused "great offense" to the country's dominant church in comments he made earlier about the prelate's reaction to plans to change the system of religious instruction in schools.

Alkatiri said the communiqué from the Bishops of Dili and Baucau, Alberto da Silva and Basilio do Nascimento respectively, would go down in Timor's history as the "date the Catholic hierarchy transformed into a political party".

Dili's head of government invited the bishops to join a commission that is overseeing a pilot scheme in 32 schools to make religious education an optional subject.

"Without descending to the same level as the bishops` last statement, we limit ourselves to reaffirming that the decision to change religion classes to a non-compulsory subject is an experiment ÓWe will study the results of this trial to decide if it will be applied to the whole country or not", Alkatiri's communiqué said.



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