Catholics Schools Urged to Maintain Identity

Pope Receives Conferees of Education Congress

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VATICAN CITY, APR. 29, 2001 ( John Paul II stressed that if Catholic schools are to be centers for integral formation and for promotion of dialogue in society, they must not lose their own identity.

The Pope expressed this conviction Saturday when he received 250 participants in the four-day international congress organized by the European Committee for Catholic Education, being held in Rome through Tuesday.

New tendencies of thought and behavior, the Pontiff said, call for a double response from the Catholic school: to point students toward the ideal of Jesus and his Gospel message, and to provide education with a sense of commitment and professionalism.

A second challenge stems from this, the Pope explained: «constructive dialogue in the multicultural society of our time.»

«Education has a particular function in the construction of a world of greater solidarity and peace,» the Holy Father said. «It can contribute to the affirmation of an integral humanism, open to the ethical and religious dimension, which knows how to give importance to knowledge and appreciation of the cultural and spiritual values of the different civilizations.»

In particular, the Holy Father referred to the increasingly common phenomenon of Catholic schools opening their doors to students of other religions. The Bishop of Rome said that this «effort must continue, without diminishing because of this, its own character and the Catholic specificity of its structures.»

This openness and dialogue is a concrete step to «overcome fear of the other,» the key to peace, the Pope concluded.

The theme of the Catholic schools´ congress is «The Mission to Educate: Witness to a Hidden Treasure.» Its sessions were opened Saturday by Canon Amand Beauduin, president of the European Committee for Catholic Education, and Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.

The Polish cardinal said that the principal object of the meeting was to make a special contribution to education, since a school runs the risk of «being reduced to mere preparation directed by the demands of technology and productive and economic processes.»

In order to avoid this danger, Cardinal Grocholewski referred to the need for a synthesis between faith and culture: «The Catholic school can contribute significantly to restore a soul to education through the treasure that is safeguarded by its educational plan, which is founded on the person of Christ.»

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