ROME — With the last-minute support of his coalition partners, Prime Minister Giovanni Goria won a vote in Parliament on Saturday on the issue of Roman Catholic instruction in public schools.
The issue had developed into a church-state struggle that threatened to bring down the Christian Democrat's 10-week-old government.
Until just before voting began, the coalition's Socialists, Republicans and Liberals had refused to pledge their backing for Goria's proposals on how a religious hour should fit into the state school curriculum.
Differences were resolved in a flurry of meetings involving the Catholic-based Christian Democrats and their coalition members after Goria placed before Parliament a plan designed to satisfy both non-religious parties and the Vatican.
The vote was 286 in favor of Goria's plan, 234 against and seven abstentions.
Under Goria's proposal, students who choose not to take religious instruction in school will be offered alternative classes. If they choose not to take the classes, they must remain at school, using the library or similar facilities.
The Vatican had pushed for mandatory alternative classes, saying if students were given a choice, they would leave campus.
Religious instruction in Italian schools was made optional in a 1984 revision of the Concordat, or Italian-Vatican treaty.