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Education minister sets off firestorm over religion in class

26/09/2012

Schools should adapt to multicultural country, Profumo says

Education minister sets off firestorm over religion in class

(ANSA) - Rome, September 26 - Italy's education minister refused to back down Wednesday from his earlier suggestions that schools in the country should teach more than Catholicism in the classroom. But Francesco Profumo said he had no immediate plans to change "certain rules or terms" of the curriculum for religion classes. The minister triggered controversy recently when he suggested it was time to update school curricula with respect to teaching the Catholic religion in public schools. As Italy becomes more multicultural, it may be important to teach students about other faiths, Profumo said. He expanded on his views in a letter to Catholic philosopher Giovanni Reale, a copy of which was obtained by ANSA Wednesday. "Our country is at the center of a tumultuous evolution, both political and spiritual, in the Mediterranean, which has always been a crossroads of peoples and faiths," Profumo wrote. It's time, therefore, that Italian schools "deal with this changing reality" of a multicultural world, he added. Religious education teachers have responded to Profumo's ideas by saying the Catholic faith is a deeply embedded part of Italy's historical heritage, and curricula shouldn't be changed. These teachers, and an association for Italian families, noted that in June Profumo signed new agreements on what would be taught in religious education classes and now is no time for change. "Christianity is inextricably inserted in the history of our country," said Francesco Belletti, president of the Forum of Family Associations. Religious teachers are appointed by schools in consultation with local religious Catholic authorities. Students who opt out of religion classes are not given alternative teaching. One in 10 Italian students are not Italian and a slightly higher percentage are not Catholic. A small minority of atheist or agnostic parents insist their children should not be given lessons in Catholicism.