File: A Government seal on the door of a closed church health centre. File: A Government seal on the door of a closed church health centre. 

Eritrea: Bishops criticise the nationalisation of Catholic schools.

Catholic Bishops in Eritrea say that the Church is not in competition with the State by running health and educational services.

"We, pastors and leaders of the Catholic Church in Eritrea, are deeply saddened and intimately hurt by the measures that the government is taking or has already taken by force, taking away from us the educational and health institutions that legitimately belong to us, and limiting our service to the country." - Eritrean Bishops.

Vatican News English Africa Service.

In 2019, hospitals and clinics belonging to the Catholic Church and other faiths were confiscated or simply closed by the Government of Eritrea. So now, the Catholic Church in Eritrea is desperately trying to hang on to its remaining schools similarly set for nationalisation.

We will never cease to demand the return of our institutions

The Bishops in Eritrea have pleaded with the Government against taking over schools belonging to the Church. In a letter to the Eritrean Minister of Education, Mr Semere Reesom, the Bishops say that they are at a loss and do not understand the real purpose of the continued seizures of Church property.

“Let it be said without hesitation and without any qualms whatsoever once again to friends and non-friends alike: The schools and clinics confiscated or closed, or about to be confiscated or closed, are the legitimate property of the Catholic Church, built, established and organised in the supreme and exclusive interest of serving our people. We declare again that she will never cease to demand the return of the social institutions forcibly taken from her and the right to perform all the services of which she has been deprived. It is also of no small importance that, while some of these institutions are outside the perimeter of religious houses, others are located within the walls of those houses,” reads the Bishops’ letter to the Minister of Education seen by Vatican News.

We are not in competition with the State

In their letter, the Bishops list some of the schools that have either been nationalised or are earmarked for seizure.

“It is well known how in 2018 secondary schools belonging to this Church were confiscated. Recently, procedures have begun for the confiscation or, perhaps, closure of our remaining educational institutions. These range from kindergartens to primary and secondary schools,” said the Bishops.

The Bishops have reminded the Eritrean Government that they are not in competition with the state but have only one desire: To serve all Eritreans. They have decried the continued take-overs of Church property as unjust.

Govt. action against principles of justice

“Just as in the past some members of the Eritrean government forcibly closed down some and nationalised other health centres, which served the people with exemplary dedication and without any distinction of religion, ethnicity or group, so too today the authorities continue to try to make the people believe that the health and educational institutions belong (!) to the people, and not to the Church.” The Bishops further state, “Since the measures which the authorities in government have already taken, or are about to take in this regard, violate in principle and in fact the rights and are explicitly detrimental to the most elementary principles of justice, the Catholic Church firmly denounces these measures,” the Eritrean prelates maintain.

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10 June 2021, 18:56