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Congregation for the Clergy
General Directory for Catechesis

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    • CHAPTER II Catechesis in the process of evangelization
      • Catechesis and religious instruction in schools
        • The school context and those to whom religious instruction in schools is directed
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The school context and those to whom religious instruction in schools is directed

74. Religious instruction in schools is developed in diverse scholastic contexts, while always maintaining its proper character, to acquire different emphases. These depend on legal and organizational circumstances, educational theories, personal outlook of individual teachers and students as well as the relationship between religious instruction in the schools and family or parish catechesis.

It is not possible to reduce the various forms of religious instruction in schools, which have developed as a result of accords between individual states and Episcopal Conferences. It is, however, necessary that efforts be made so that religious instruction in schools respond to its objectives and its own characteristics. (224)

Students "have the right to learn with truth and certainty the religion to which they belong. This right to know Christ, and the salvific message proclaimed by Him cannot be neglected. The confessional character of religious instruction in schools, in its various focuses, given by the Church in different countries is an indispensible guarantee offered to families and students who choose such education". (225)

When given in the context of the Catholic school, religious instruction is part of and completed by other forms of the ministry of the word (catechesis, homilies, liturgical celebration, etc.). It is indispinsible to their pedagogical function and the basis for their existence. (226)

In the context of state schools or non-confessional schools where the civil authorities or other circumstances impose the teaching of religion common to both Catholics and non Catholics (227) it will have a more ecumenical character and have a more inter-religious awareness.

In other circumstances religious instruction will have an extensively cultural character and teach a knowledge of religions including the Catholic religion. In this case too and expecially if presented by teachers with a sincere respect for the Christian religion, religious instruction maintains a true dimension of "evangelic preparation".(228)

75. The life and faith of students who receive religious instruction in school are characterized by continuous change. Religious instruction should be cognizant of that fact if it is to accomplish its own ends. In the case of students who are believers, religious instruction assists them to understand better the Christian message, by relating it to the great existential concerns common to all religions and to every human being, to the various visions of life particularly evident in culture and to those major moral questions which confront humanity today.

Those students who are searching, or who have religious doubts, can also find in religious instruction the possibility of discovering what exactly faith in Jesus Christ is, what response the Church makes to their questions, and gives them the opportunity to examine their own choice more deeply.

In the case of students who are non-believers, religious instruction assumes the character of a missionary proclamation of the Gospel and is ordered to a decision of faith, which catechesis, in its turn, will nurture and mature.

Education in the Christian family, catechesis and religious instruction at the service of education in the faith

76. Christian education in the family, catechesis and religious instruction in schools are, each in its own way, closely interrelated with the service of Christian education of children, adolescents, and young people. In practice, however, different factors must be taken into consideration in order to proceed realistically and with pastoral prudence in the application of general guidelines.

It is for each diocese or pastoral region to discern the diverse circumstances which arise with regard to the existence or not of Christian initiation of children in the context of the family, and with regard to the formative duties which are traditionally exercised by the parish, the school etc. Consequently the particular Church and the Episcopal Conference shall establish proper guidelines for various situations and foster distinct but complementary activities.

224) Cf. John Paul II, Allocution on the Symposium of the Council of the Episcopal Conference on the the Teaching of the Catholic Religion in the public school (15 April 1991): Teachings of John Paul II, XIV1, pp. 780s.

225) Ibid.

226) Cf. CT 69, Congregation for Catholic Education, The religious dimension of education in the Catholic school, n. 66: l.c.

227) Cf. CT 33.

228) Cf. CT 34.

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