Many Catholic Schools in Italy Face Closure

ROME, FEB. 1, 2001 ( The demographic crisis and lack of support from the Italian government is forcing many Catholic schools in Italy to close.

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To avoid the problem, bishops are proposing the establishment of a network of Catholic educational institutions that would share resources and cut expenses.

The crisis will become more acute over the next few months, as a new Italian school law is obliging Catholic schools to increase their personnel and restructure their buildings.

Bishop Ennio Antonelli, secretary-general of the Italian bishops´ conference, has proposed the creation of «networks among the different educational institutions to overcome the present difficulties.»

«The Italian bishops´ conference cannot resolve the problem of the religious institutes and congregations; it can only give pointers and incentives … [to] make it known that there are plans for survival and a new impulse,» the bishop added.

Dioceses, Bishop Antonelli explained, should organize themselves so that Catholic schools join up to exchange services, buildings and personnel, and thus cut costs and avoid closure.

There are 1,464 Catholic schools connected to religious orders and congregations, of which 600 only offer primary school programs. With the school reform, these schools would have to add two years of study and, consequently, new teachers and classrooms. Bishop Antonelli warned that these are the very schools that run the greatest risk of having to close.

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