UPDATE OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF SUVA'S
RESPONSE TO OMRSS
Dear beloved Fiji Catholics,
Thank you for your support and prayers in our commitment to promoting and protecting the Catholic Character of our schools, in particular by having a Catholic Principal.
I want to locate the current debate regarding Faith Based Schools and the Open Merit Recruiting Selection System in the context of the protecting and promoting the Catholic Character of Catholic Schools (and the special character of other Faith Based Schools.)
What is the Catholic Character of a school?
Our schools are marked with a Catholic Character. This is a definition of the Catholic character of Catholic School. “The school is a Roman Catholic school in which the whole school community, through the general school programme and in its religious instructions and observances, exercises the right to live and teach the values of Jesus Christ. These values are as expressed in the Scriptures and in the practices, worship and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, as determined from time to time by the Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese.”
The Catholic Character is the framework within which the whole school curriculum is delivered; it is, in fact, integral to everything that takes place in the school, or on behalf of the school and its community. Properly observed and practised, it also provides a climate of hope, inspiration and service for all members of the school community. (Handbook for Boards of Trustees of NZ Catholic Integrated Schools)
The principal holds a very important position in terms of promoting and protecting the Catholic Character of the School. Hence, our plea to have a qualified Catholic principal.
As your bishop, the universal Catholic Churches charges me with the responsibility of promoting and protecting catholic education.
ARCHBISHOP J. MICHAEL MILLER, C.S.B, secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Catholic Education states:
“With regard to Catholic schools, episcopal responsibility is twofold. First, the bishop must integrate schools into his diocese's pastoral program; and, second, he must oversee the teaching within them. As John Paul II straightforwardly affirmed, "Bishops need to support and enhance the work of Catholic schools." The bishop must see to it that the education in his schools is based on the principles of Catholic doctrine.”
To be faithful to Universal Church's call, I have a called a meeting with the Catholic Education Board, Superiors of Religious Congregations and some Education experts on Thursday 17th January. This meeting will discuss our strategy for protecting the Catholic Character of Catholic Education and how we can work within the OMRSS and Fiji Constitution (no.22) on religious freedom. I am also seeking local and overseas legal advice. We will soon produce a well-researched communication paper to facilitate our dialogue with the Ministry of Education.
I will welcome your advice or insight on this crucial matter.
Please keep us in your prayers.
Archbishop Peter Chong