Malta extends temporary education agreement
by our correspondent in Malta
MALTA'S socialist government has signed another temporary agreement with the Church over the running of her schools—thus safely postponing until after the elections, due in ten months time, the entire issue of church school financing and the Church's property.
The agreement, signed among others by Prime Minister, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, and by the apostolic nuncio, Mgr Pier Luigi Celata, covers two years.
Noting "the difficulties still in the way of the desired definitive agreement regarding the financing which would make free education in church schools possible", the two parties have addressed themselves to the two academic years 1985-86 and 1986-87.
The Maltese government undertook to pay over half of the estimated cost of £M858,000, to, be paid in successive instalments to the church schools' fund.
The Church will pay the rest with the proceeds of two annual collections, "from the exceptional earnings accrued from her foreign portfolio for the months of January to March of the current year, and from an extraordinary collection from all religious institutions including those which do not themselves run schools".
The two parties stressed in their agreement that they were acting in an "exceptional" manner, and that therefore the details of it should not be taken as "implying or consequential to any affirmation concerned of the method, criteria or measure of contribution on a percentage basis or otherwise".
Therefore, the two parties continued, the new plan will "in no way prejudice the negotiations still going on towards a definitive agreement".
After many months of often violent clashes over the future of Malta's 18 Catholic schools, the government and the Church came to an agreement in May of last year (Catholic Herald, May 3) to phase in free education over a period of three years. The Church had always maintained that while it agreed with the principle of free education, it did not have the resources to put it into practice. The state disputed this and referred to the Church's hidden wealth.
This new agreement is the result of months of financial discussions and would appear to vindicate the Church's position that it had no "hidden pots of gold".