Roman Catholic schools should provide facilities such as multi-faith prayer rooms and toilets allowing Islamic ‘ritual cleansing’, church leaders have said.
The document published by the Catholic Education Service was produced on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and has been personally endorsed by the Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols.
Archbishop Nichols said interfaith dialogue has become increasingly important to the church “as the presence of other faith communities grows and becomes more evident in our society.”
The proposals will stun Catholic parents as it goes way beyond the legal requirements needed to accommodate the rights and needs of religious minorities.
It has been suggested that the report is a response to criticism received earlier in the year suggesting faith schools should be forced to open their doors to pupils and staff who do not sign up to their ethos.
Daphne McLeod, a former Catholic School head teacher said changes would be “terribly expensive” and “if Muslim parents choose a Catholic school then they accept that it is going to be a Catholic school and there will not be facilities for ritual cleansing and prayer rooms.”
She added: “I don’t think the bishops should go looking for problems. Where will it stop?”
The Muslim community is delighted, with one parent, who sends his children to a Catholic School, saying, “it is very kind of the bishops if they give this facility for Muslims to pray”.
He said: “I would love to send a letter of thanks to the bishops, really. If they do this all Muslims in Britain will be thankful to the Catholic Church to have facilities to pray. It is very, very encouraging.”
Other suggestions in the report include sending “messages of goodwill” to parents during religious ceremonies, including Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu celebrations.
Earlier this month Prince Charles was in the news over a controversial statement that he would like to embrace ‘multiculturalism’ and be known as “Defender of faith” rather than “the faith” when he becomes King.
This sparked debate over the future of the Church of England but the Government was quick to distance itself by saying disestablishment was not on the agenda.