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New agreement in Italy divides church and state

Italy and the Vatican signed a new agreement Saturday that ends the status of Roman Catholicism as the state religion and establishes the church and state as ''independent and sovereign.''

Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli signed the 14-article Concordat with gold pens just after noon local time in the ornate 16th-century Villa Madama, a government guest house.

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The Concordat allows continuation of religious education in state schools but gives parents the right to choose whether or not their children should receive religious instruction. It officially guarantees religious liberty for non-Catholics.

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