Pope Asks Teachers to Understand Their Students

Dedicates Justice and Peace Message to Youth

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is highlighting the importance of young people in the quest for justice and peace, but he says the fundamental question that must be asked to educate them is «who is man?»

The Pope thus encouraged all types of educators — from families to politicians to media professionals — to understand the beings they are educating. He made this call in his message for the World Day of Justice and Peace, which will be marked Jan. 1. The message was released by the Vatican today.

«The first step in education is learning to recognize the Creator’s image in man, and consequently learning to have a profound respect for every human being and helping others to live a life consonant with this supreme dignity,» the Holy Father proposed. 

He went on to explain the importance of taking into account «every single dimension» of the person, including the transcendent one.

The Pontiff’s statement speaks of educating in freedom, and educating in justice, and finally of educating in peace.

«Freedom is a precious value, but a fragile one; it can be misunderstood and misused,» he warned. He explained that authentic freedom is «not the absence of constraint or the supremacy of free will, it is not the absolutism of the self. When man believes himself to be absolute, to depend on nothing and no one, to be able to do anything he wants, he ends up contradicting the truth of his own being and forfeiting his freedom.»

Benedict XVI’s message pointed out again the errors of relativism, one of the main messages of his pontificate. This philosophy recognizes «nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires,» he said, and thus «sooner or later, every person is in fact condemned to doubting the goodness of his or her own life and the relationships of which it consists, the validity of his or her commitment to build with others something in common.»

Solidarity and love

Regarding justice, the Pope noted that it is not simply a human convention, «since what is just is ultimately determined not by positive law, but by the profound identity of the human being. It is the integral vision of man that saves us from falling into a contractual conception of justice and enables us to locate justice within the horizon of solidarity and love.»

Then, he continued, taking up the theme of peace: «Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice, according to one’s particular areas of competence and responsibility. To the young, who have such a strong attachment to ideals, I extend a particular invitation to be patient and persevering in seeking justice and peace, in cultivating the taste for what is just and true, even when it involves sacrifice and swimming against the tide.»

The Holy Father concluded with this appeal: «All you men and women throughout the world, who take to heart the cause of peace: peace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire. Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace. 

«With these thoughts I offer my reflections and I appeal to everyone: let us pool our spiritual, moral and material resources for the great goal of ‘educating young people in justice and peace.'»

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