The Christian Brothers plan to give their network of primary and secondary schools in England and Ireland to a lay charity.
The move will affect 29 primary and 109 secondary schools in Northern Ireland and the Irish republic, as well as five primaries and six secondaries in England. The Brothers were once the biggest religious congregation in Ireland, but now recruitment has dried up completely.
In Ireland and Northern Ireland the trusts will be run entirely by lay Catholics. In England discussions are taking place with individual bishops about trust arrangements.
In 1998, the order took out half-page newspaper advertisements apologising for sexual abuse inflicted in its schools. A year later, Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, apologised on behalf of the government.