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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pope tells Catholic educators to teach the grammar of dialogue

At 11:40am this morning, in the Clementine Hall at the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in the Plenary of the Congregation for Catholic Education (from various Institutes of Studies).

Following a few words of introduction offered by the Cardinal Prefect of the Dicastery, Giuseppe Versaldi, the Pope offered the following speech.

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to members of the
Congregation for Catholic Education

Dear brothers and sisters,

I thank the Cardinal Prefect for the words of introduction he has offered and I cordially greet the members of the Congregation for Catholic Education who have recently been appointed, including the Prefect himself, who for the first time is presiding over the Plenary assembly.  I greet the various components of the Gravissimum educationis Foundation, which has recently been created in order to promote the content of the conciliar Declaration.

Over these past days, you have taken into consideration many arguments, in order to create an account of the work of the Discastery over these past three years and to trace the outlines of future commitments.

The various sectors of the vast field of education which are the competence of your Congregation have committed you to reflection and discussion concerning various important aspects, like the individual and ongoing formation of teachers and principals, as well as consideration of the need for inclusive and informal education; the irreplaceable contribution of various Religious Congregations, as well as support that can be derived from the diocesan Churches and organizations in local sectors.  A good part of your work was dedicated to ecclesial and Catholic institutions at university level who are working toward the fulfillment of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia christiana; the promotion of studies in Canon Law in relation to the reform of processes of marriage nullity; as well as in support of pastoral work at the university level.  You have also considered the opportunity to offer directives for increasing accountability for all those who are involved in the challenging field of education.

As I recalled in the Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, Universities are privileged environments for thinking and for developing one's commitment to evangelization, and Catholic schools ... represent a very important contribution to the evangelization of a culture, even in countries and in cities where adverse situations make it necessary for us to use creativity in order to find adequate solutions (EG, 134).

From the point of view of evangelization, I feel the need to share some thoughts with you.

First of all, faced with the phenomenon of intrusive individualism, which makes people humanly poor and culturally sterile, we need to humanize education.  Schools and universities discover their full sense only in relation to the formation of persons.  In the process of human growth, all educators are called to collaborate with their professionalism and with the human richness which they offer in order to help young people to become builders of a more united and peaceful world.  What's more, Catholic institutions of education have the mission of offering horizons that are open to transcendence.  Gravissimum educationis reminds us that education is at the service of an integral humanism and that the Church, a teaching mother, is always concerned about new generations from the perspective of the formation of human persons either in view of their ultimate ends or for the good of various societies, of which man is a member and in which, as an adult, he will share (GE, 1).

Another expectation is that you will contribute toward the growth of a culture of dialogue.  Our world has become a global village with many opportunities for interaction, where every person belongs to humanity and shares hope for a better future with the entire family of peoples.  At the same time, unfortunately, there are many forms of violence, poverty, suffering, discrimination, marginalization and restrictive approaches to fundamental liberty that create a culture of waste.  In this context, Catholic institutions of education are called first and foremost to practice the grammar of dialogue that prepares us for encounter and for the recognition of various cultures and religions.  In fact, dialogue teaches when a person interacts with respect, esteem, listens sincerely and speaks with authenticity, without tarnishing or mitigating his or her own identity which is nourished by evangelical inspiration.   This encourages the conviction that new generations, raised in the context of Christian dialogue, will leave schools and university classrooms motivated to build bridges and then, to find new responses to the many challenges of our times.  In a more specific sense, schools and universities are called to teach a method of intellectual dialogue that is focused on finding the truth.  Saint Thomas was and still is a master of this method, which consists of taking the other person seriously, trying to follow his paths of reasoning, his objections, in order to be able to respond not in a superficial manner but adequately.  Only in this way can we truly move forward together in our knowledge of the truth.

There is a final expectation that I want to share with you: the contribution of education to sowing hope.  Man cannot live without hope and education generates hope.  In fact, education allows ideas to be born, makes it possible for human beings to grow; it is essential to the dynamic of giving life.  And life that is born is the most promising source of hope; a life that is stretched in search of beauty, of goodness, of truth and of communion with others for the promotion of the common good.  I am convinced that the youth today need above all to know this life that is capable of building the future.  Therefore, a real teacher is like a father or a mother who passes on a life that is capable of welcoming the future.  In order for us to develop this outlook, we need to listen to young people: the work of listening.  Let us set about the process of listening to our youth!  And let us do this especially during the upcoming Synod of Bishops which will be dedicated to youth.  Education, therefore, shares in common with hope, the same stuff that is being risked.  Hope is not a superficial optimism, nor a capacity to look at things benevolently, but above all it is knowing how to take risks in the right way, just like education.

Dear brothers and sisters, Catholic schools and universities provide a great contribution to the mission of the Church when they are at the service of the growth of humanity, in dialogue and in hope.  I thank you for the work that you are doing in order to make institutions of educations places where evangelization can be experienced.  I invoke upon all of you the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, that she may make your ministry in the field of education fruitful.  And I ask you, please, to pray for me; with all my heart I give you my blessing.  Thank you!
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