Republic's community schools to phase out Catholic sacrament preparation
STATE-run primary schools in the Republic are to no longer offer sacramental preparation to Catholic children during the school day.
The religious practice will not be offered in any new Community National Schools and will be phased out in existing schools within the sector.
The change was confirmed by Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), which runs the south's 11 Community National Schools.
The first Community National School opened in 2008. At the time the new school model was designed, Ireland's Catholic bishops said faith formation during the school day was a "minimum non-negotiable requirement" for their support.
But yesterday the Catholic Church did not express any opposition to the move.
In a statement Martin Long, director of the Catholic Communications Office, said: "The decision of the ETBI is solely the matter for the national association and its members."
RTÉ reported that Department of Education documents showed how schools and parents had objected to an initial decision to divide children into four religious groups.
The schools soon moved away from this, but most continued to separate some children from Catholic classmates to facilitate sacramental preparation.
However, many of the schools also abandoned this practice during the last academic year.
A recent Trinity College Dublin study found that children at Community National Schools believed Catholic pupils had privileged treatment because school time was being spent on preparing them for sacraments.
It also found the schools were having to negotiate with local Catholic priests on the amount of time they could dedicate to preparation for communion and confirmation.