||Home > Politics
> 2013-07-03 07:53:18
Catholic schools defended in Northern Ireland
(Vatican Radio) Catholic education in Northern Ireland has been being debated since US President Barack Obama called Catholic schools part of segregation in the province. Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has for years called for end of public funding for Catholic schools.
The Auxiliary Bishop of Down & Connor in Belfast, Donal McKeown, said Obama’s words were not helpful.
“He talked about Catholics and Protestants using that denominational paradigm as the tool to analyse our situation,” Bishop McKeown explained. “Whereas, I think since 1998 when we had the Good Friday Agreement, we recognize it is a political problem between those who want union with Britain and those who want union with the Irish Republic, rather than a religious thing.”
He said this distinction is important.
“If you say the problem is Catholic-Protestant, then anything that is Catholic can easily be caricatured as part of the problem, to be got rid of as being anti-ecumenical,” he told Vatican Radio.
Bishop McKeown said Catholic schools have shown the world over that they are capable of fostering integration in society, and is also true in Northern Ireland.
“Catholic schools have shown in Northern Ireland, as well as elsewhere, that they are quite as capable as any other school sector of bringing people together from different faith backgrounds and from different racial backgrounds,” he said. “In fact, in Belfast, it is actually the Catholic schools which are the most racially mixed.”
Bishop McKeown said that implying that only formally “Integrated Schools” can foster integration is a caricature and an oversimplification.
“We want to be involved in the process of reconciliation,” he said.
Listen to the full interview by Charles Collins with Bishop McKeown: