Education Seen as a Priority by "Cor Unum"

Conclusions of Pontifical Council’s 25th Plenary Assembly

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 26, 2003 ( The need to “build” persons more than things is at the heart of the conclusions of the plenary assembly of the pontifical council that coordinates papal charitable activities.

The conclusions of the meeting of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” which ended last weekend, were published Tuesday.

In his address last Friday to the “Cor Unum” members whom he received in audience, John Paul II said that the “Church is not limited to satisfying only the material expectations of those in difficulty; it does not exhaust its charitable action building structures. … It also makes an effort to respond to the most hidden existential questions.”

Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi echoed the Pope’s exhortation. “The colonization of Africa has persisted because foreign sovereignties have impeded the genuine education of local populations,” the Cameroonian cardinal said. He noted that the first schools in the continent were, in fact, built by missionaries.

“Why, still today, is it easier to build a well than to educate? Things mustn’t be developed, man must be developed!” the cardinal said in a statement issued by the Vatican press office.

“Cor Unum” pointed out that this priority has also been stressed by international aid organizations, by the Caritas network, and by the bishops of the poor countries “which are the first to be responsible for the projects implemented in their dioceses, with the approval and support of the ecclesial authorities.”

That priority must be given to the formation of persons was reflected in the closing appeal of the three-day conference, expressed by Peter Weiderud, director of international affairs of the World Council of Churches.

“Let us give a perspective to our charitable work, which goes beyond humanitarian emergency, and will take education to the poorest,” he said.

“Let us try to have our leaders more involved with the local populations!” he said. “This will make easier the communication of the faith, ultimate objective of all our action.”

The “Cor Unum” assembly also reflected on the need for closer cooperation between international charitable organizations, national Caritas, bishops and the council itself.

“This will allow our realities — which every day serve millions of poor in the world — to have the love of God perceived ever more, which, as for Mother Teresa of Calcutta, reached people through the smallest gesture,” the president of “Cor Unum,” Archbishop Paul Cordes, said when closing the assembly.

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