New Vatican document surveys Catholic schools

Vatican City, Nov. 21, 2007 (CINS/CWN) - At a November 20 press conference introducing a new Vatican document on Catholic schools, the prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education said that "a profound malady is affecting the educational world, especially in the West."

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski said that the indications of this malady include rising violence in schools and the breakdown in family life-- pointing out that the latter problem is critical because families "have the prime responsibility for the education of their children."

The Polish cardinal appeared at the November 20 press briefing along with Msgr. Angelo Zani, the undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, to introduce a document on Catholic schools. The 26-page document-- published in Italian, English, French, and Spanish-- is divided into three sections, which address the mission of education, the task of intellectual and spiritual formation of students, and the preparation of young people for commitment to Christian action in the world.

Providing a rundown of the world's Catholic schools, Msgr. Zani told reporters that there are 2.5 million Catholic schools in the world today, with 3.5 million teachers instructing 42 million students.

In some cases, the Vatican official reported, the Catholic schools educate many non-Catholic students, and their mission has an important inter-religious focus. He cited the case of Lebanon, where "the program of Catholic schools has as its principal aim that of leading young people to dialogue and collaboration between Muslims and Christians." Of 210,000 Catholic-school students in Lebanon, 24% are non-Christian.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Msgr. Zani continued, the Sarajevo archdiocese founded 3 inter-religious schools-- welcoming Serbs, Croats, and Muslims without prejudice-- during the height of the ethnic violence in that region. In Morocco, he continued, there are 17 Catholic schools with entirely Muslim student bodies. In Nepal there are 2 such schools.

In the US, Catholic schools have taken on a large share of responsibility for educating ethnic minority groups. About 27% of the students in America's Catholic schools are non-white, while 14% are non-Catholic. 

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