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Statement by the Bishops of England and Wales on Catholic Schools

We are blessed in most areas of our country with a splendid system of Catholic schools. This has been achieved through the great efforts and generosity of our Catholic people - support and loyalty of parents - the faith and devotion of our teachers, religious and lay, and the considerable financial State Aid we have received. It has been, and remains the unswerving policy of the Bishops to provide and preserve Catholic schools wherever possible. It is our conviction that they have an indispensable role in the Catholic upbringing and formation of the children. The Bishops now wish to re-affirm this conviction and their unqualified support of our Catholic schools.

The Synod of Bishops meeting with the Holy Father in Rome in 1977 gave all its time to discussing carefully and thoroughly our great responsibility for catechesis - the teaching of our faith and the formation of our people of all ages. This teaching and formation begins at home in the family where the children should begin to know and love God, learn how to pray to Him, as well as to gain their first knowledge of the world. Parents soon need the help and support of others - priests, teachers, the parish community and especially the Catholic school. At a Catholic school children grow in knowledge not only of secular subjects but also of their Faith and of its application to the demands of Christian living. True education for us means the formation of the whole person, spiritual and moral, as well as intellectual and physical. This means that all human knowledge must be interpreted in the light of our Faith and the Gospel message of Christ. The pressures and influences of our materialistic society make it not less but more difficult to live according to the teaching of Christ. In preparing and forming our children, the work of our schools is now more not less important.

The Holy See, when speaking about Catholic Education, emphasises the importance and value of the Catholic school. It is not just a place where the pupils learn the truths of our Faith; they become familiar with the Church and her liturgy especially the Mass - the source and summit of the whole Gospel message. At best the Catholic school is a living and caring community of Faith, and extension of the home, and an integral part of the Catholic community.

We can all be rightly proud of our achievement and of the very significant and distinctive contribution our schools make to education as a whole in our countries. Our schools are not divisive - rather they provide a positive service to the wider community in teaching and upholding our Christian standards and values. The Church has owed and continues to owe much to its schools. The Bishops are grateful to all who work for them, above all to the teachers and for the invaluable contribution made by the religious Orders and Congregations to Catholic Education. Our experience in this country is that the Catholic school is alive and well. The Bishops are committed to its continued existence and development.

They are conscious, too, of the considerable difficulties and sacrifices that many parents generously accept in sending their children to Catholic schools. The Bishops wish to encourage them in this and to reassure them that the sacrifices they make in fulfilling their duty to their children will bring them God's grace and blessing.

We must remind all Catholic parents of their duty to educate their children in the knowledge and practice of our Faith. We urge upon the whole Catholic community, especially parents, the importance of supporting their Catholic schools, and entrusting their children to them. It is our resolve to preserve and to perfect the quality of our schools and to achieve the aims and purpose of true Catholic Education and formation of the young.