.- On Thursday at Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict raised the topic of the role of Catholic schools in contributing to the good of society. All who desire the "good of the young and the country" should work for real equality between State schools and private schools," the Holy Father said.
The Popeâs remarks were made to participants in a seminar sponsored by the Italian Bishopsâ Conference and entitled: "Beyond the Educational Emergency. Catholic schools at the service of young people."
The mission of Catholic schools, said the Pope, is to help build a "civil coexistence" for society, while at the same time, they serve as "an expression of the right of all citizens to freedom of education."
"In order to be selected and appreciated, Catholic schools must be understood in their educational aims," said the Holy Father. To this end a "mature awareness" is necessary, "not only of their ecclesial identity and cultural program, but also of their civil importance which should be considered not as a defense of special interests but as a precious contribution to creating the common good of all Italian society."
Benedict XVI also noted the enrollment difficulties and attempts at reform in Catholic schools which have been studied for 10 years by the bishopsâ Study Center for Catholic Schools. Thanks to this study, "it has been noted that attendance in Catholic schools in some regions of Italy has grown with respect to the preceding decade, although serious - and sometimes even critical - situations persist," he said.
"It is, precisely in the context of the renewal wished for by all people who have the good of the young and the country at heart that we must favor real equality between State schools and private schools, so as to grant parents appropriate liberty of choice on the schools their children attend," the Pope said in closing.