THE -VATICAN is N3. filing to discuss a long-term agreement on relations with Malta, but resolution of the government's dispute with the Malta archdiocese over financing and regulation of the nation's Catholic schools comes first, a Vatican official said last week.
Mgr Giuseppe lazzarotto, who oversees relations with Malta for the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, noted that the Maltese government wants a concordat with the Vatican. He was commenting on the issue two days after Archbishop Joseph Mercieca of Malta and Mgr Francesco Canalini, charge d'affaires at the Vatican nunciature in Malta, discussed the schools dispute with Vatican officials in Rome.
Controversy over the schools was sparked last year when Malta's Parliament passed a law forbidding Catholic schools from charging tuition or fees. At the sante time the Government established licensing conditions for the schools which the church officials refused to accept. The increasing conflict led Archbishop Mercieca to keep the schools closed past their scheduled October opening date.
"We're trying to find a permanent solution to the schools problem," said Mgr Lazzarotto. He cited ongoing negotiations between the church and the government. The aim is an agreement "so that the next school year can start without problems," he said.
Maltese Prime Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, who also serves as the country's minister of education, is the government's chief negotiator. Jesuit Fr Charles Caruana leads the church team.