General Assembly of European Committee for Catholic Education held for the first time in Ukraine
On October 28-29, 2016, the General Assembly of European Committee for Catholic Education (CEEC) was held for the first time in Ukraine in Kyiv. It discussed the autonomy of Catholic education in Europe and the intercultural and inter-religious dialogue in Catholic schools.
The meeting was attended by 34 representatives from 21 European countries at the invitation of the UGCC Commission for education and formation.
Head of the UGCC Patriarch Sviatoslav opened the Assembly with a greeting message to the guests, participants and briefed them on the state and prospects of Catholic education in Ukraine. The patriarch stressed that the General Assembly in Kyiv is a historic event that will affect the development of Ukrainian education and the future of society. He stressed the importance of the event, addressing the members of CEEC:
“Your presence here is very important, as you acknowledge that one may be both a European and a Christian, and the Catholic education provides not only competence, but also high levels of formation and education, and at the same time friendly and peaceful environment for the development of all members of a Christian educational institution.
Patriarch Sviatoslav also noted that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has something to say to society today, and not only society but the whole of the international community, and stressed the need to cultivate the space of freedom, openness, dignity and safety in the school environment:
“Our challenge is to shape a new image of a teacher-educator, nurture holistic approach to education and training. Today the ministry through Christian education involves active presence of the Church in Ukrainian society. Therefore, your mature ideas, your experience is extremely important to us.”
According to the Head of the UGCC, the Revolution of Dignity defended the European values and human rights in Ukrainian society, the sign of which became private Catholic schools:
“Catholic education in Ukraine today is open to authentic values such as dignity, human rights, the Law, and the regulating law, that is, the true values of Christian Europe.”
The participants of the Assembly prayed for peace and prosperity in Ukraine with the words of Psalm 29: “The Lord will give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people in peace!”
On October 28, the European Committee held a meeting with Volodymyr Kovtunets, First Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine. The European Assembly participants asked about the process of democratization of the educational sector in Ukraine and how the right of parents to choice of Christian education for their children in Catholic schools is ensured. The Deputy Minister told the guests that the government takes consistent steps towards reformatting Ukrainian education, preparing a new law on primary and secondary education.
Volodymyr Kovtunets said: “The strategy of the Ministry today is a new concept od school, which gives children the competence, training and form their values. We work on new educational standards and do not imagine modern educational development without the cooperation with the Church.”
In the course of further work, representatives of Italy and Slovenia shared the experience of best practices in intercultural and interreligious dialogue in the Catholic schools in these countries.
It was important to familiarize participants with the results of the World Report on freedom of education in 2016, presented by Dr. Ignasi Grau Callizo from OIDEL mission.
In addition to representatives of the Secretariat and CEEC, the Assembly was attended by representatives of Catholic schools from Malta, Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (OIEC) George Platz, Secretary General of the International Bureau of Catholic Education (OIEC) Philippe Richard.
On behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine attending the Assembly was Fr. Michal Votsyal, SDB, director of “Narnia” school in Odessa. Representing the Commission for education and formation of the UGCC were Mr. Dzvenyslav Romanets, officer of pre-school Christian program Fr. Peter Maiba, SDB, Chair of Catholic schooling unit of the Commission, Sr. Christophora Bushtyn, SSMI, Chair of the Commission.