Three Catholic schools leave church for state

The Catholic church has given up its patronage of three Irish rural schools to save them from closure.

They are the first schools to abandon their Catholic ethos and become multi-denominational state-run schools.

Many of the children at the tiny schools come from non-religious homes or are not Catholic.

One effect of the change is that pupils preparing for sacraments such as First Confession, Communion and Confirmation will do so at home or church rather than at school.

In addition to their current pupils, the schools hope to draw pupils from Ireland’s growing number of atheists, agnostics and non-Catholics.

Fr Pat Lynch, whose parish includes one of the schools, says he thinks the move would strengthen Catholicism locally.

“A lot of priests in active ministry in Ireland will tell you they are not happy with sacramental preparation taking place in schools,” he said.

“They feel it should be taken out of schools because parents are not as involved as they should be. This is what the community wanted and I was happy to facilitate that process.”

The three schools’ initiative reflects a desire to stem decline in rural areas, where closed schools are common.

The closure of post offices, banks, police stations and pubs in villages and small towns has prompted warnings of a crisis in rural Ireland.

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