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The Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education is urging ecclesiastical universities to expand distance learning to reach students who cannot attend in-person classes but can take courses online, the National Catholic Reporter reported.

"By making use of distance learning, ecclesiastical faculties could broaden the academic formation they offer, to reach those who, in one way or another, are involved in evangelizing activities," the congregation said in new rules and guidelines for distance education.

The new rules and guidelines, developed over three years, are intended to help ecclesiastical universities integrate distance learning into their programs.

Archbishop Angelo Zani, the congregation secretary, said in-person education remains a very important component of theological education. But he said distance learning is particularly beneficial to certain individuals, including those living in religious monasteries, pastoral workers based in remote locations, bishops who could do “refresher courses” and individuals “on the peripheries.”