Cardinal Addresses Crisis of University Education

Calls for Personal Conversion as Base of Reform

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ROME, FEB. 25, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco is warning against a wave of nihilism that destroys hopes and possibilities, and is linked with the current crisis in education.

The archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference addressed these issues Thursday at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome, in a presentation on various problems related to the university education of young people.

The cardinal asserted that “at the root of the crisis of education there is a distrust of life.”

He added that the crisis of education “stems from a weakening of reason” to the point that “there is a disturbing guest going around Europe, which is nihilism” that “erases prospects and horizons.”

The prelate noted that for Nietzsche, nihilism is the belief that “supreme values lose value.”

The focus, he said, should not be so much on the young people as on us, the adults, “because we are points of reference, teachers of life, either with words or with the testimony of our deeds.”

The cardinal pointed out, “Before his son every father, just as every educator before a youth, must ask himself, not what can I do for him, but who am I?”

Passion for Christ

“It is passion for Christ that leads believers to be passionate about humanity,” Cardinal Bagnasco said, and herein lies “our principle” to “serve the world.”

However, he added, if this motivation is weakened and the difficulties weigh on us, we lose “the motivation to be the salt and light of history.”

For this reason, the prelate said, “the Holy Father never tires,” of exhorting us “not to cease looking at the face of Christ.”

The cardinal noted that the Holy Father speaks of an “educational emergency” in which “we run the risk of transforming ourselves as the ancient pagans: men without God, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Ephesus.”

Cardinal Bagnasco quoted Jacques Maritain and affirmed that “young people expect more: Their hearts do not invoke evil in life; on the contrary, they look and aspire beyond with the innate hope that the adventure of life will be promising and full of sun, rich in meaning, worthy of being lived.”

Referring to Benedict XVI’s words during his trip to England, the cardinal stated that the scientific disciplines “cannot satisfy the most profound desires of the human heart, or explain fully our origin and end, for what reason and end we exist, nor can they give us an exhaustive answer to the question: Why does something and not nothingness exist?”

Given this situation, he continued, “Benedict XVI affirmed that in the educational sector the Church has much to do in the topic of formation.”

Common emergency

The prelate noted that “the problem of the educational emergency is common throughout the West: Here the Church must actualize, concretize, and open for the future its great heritage.”

He presented five aims for the education of young people: “to educate them to ask questions, to educate them to truth, to reason, to the human and to reasoned faith.”

Cardinal Bagnasco said: “The question of so-called non-negotiable values, with all that it entails, demarcates this border line, this threshold beyond which man is lost and society becomes inhuman.

“Not to be fully aware of what is at stake, and not to have reason confirmed and illumined by faith would signify a grave sin of omission towards God and towards man.”

Moreover, he added, “the known expression — culture of life and culture of death — is not a literary expression used by the magisterium for its thought-provoking force, but describes lucidly the reality we are living: It is about man’s future.”

“To assess or silence the question,” the cardinal affirmed, “not to take it in hand with determination and great commitment, would be to miss the appointment to which the Lord is calling us.”

Cardinal Bagnasco stressed that “the heart of the problem is that at the base of the reform of the Church is personal conversion, to which the Holy Father is constantly calling us.”

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