Cardinal Grocholewski's Presentation of New Document on Education and Intercultural Dialogue

«The Catholic school is called to furnish to the young generations the necessary elements to develop an intercultural vision of living together.»

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Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, yesterday presented the document “Educate to Intercultural Dialogue in the Catholic School. To Live Together for a Civilization of Love,” organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education (of the Institutes of Studies).

The following is a translation of his intervention.

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The Educational Service of the Church through the Catholic School

I am pleased to welcome you all and I wish you a good day. I am happy to be able to present a new document of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which reflects further on the increasingly more important aspect in schools of education to intercultural dialogue. The text is the fruit of a lengthy work of reflection and sharing, which His Excellency Monsignor Angelo Vincenzo Zani , Secretary of the dicastery, will refer to in a detailed way. Concentrated in the title are the keys words of the content, which will be presented by the renowned Professor Italo Firon, President of the degree course in Sciences of Primary Formation to the LUMSA University of Rome, Professor of Didactics and Special Pedagogy, Coordinator of the National Scientific Committee of the Ministry of Education, of the University and of Research, as well as Director of the “Scuola Italiana Moderna” [“Modern Italian School”] review.

The document “Educate to Intercultural Dialogue in the Catholic School. To Live Together for a Civilization of Love” received authorization for publication from the Holy Father Francis. It is dated October 28, 2013. It is not an accidental date. As is expressly indicated, it recalls the fortieth year of the promulgation of the conciliar Declaration Gravissimum educationis on Christian education. This document is a point of reference and orientation for our dicastery. All the documents that it has published after the Council and up to now have had as their objective further reflection on the different aspects of education. I take advantage of this circumstance to communicate to you that the Congregation for Catholic Education is preparing important initiatives for the fiftieth anniversary of Gravissimum educationis, which will be observed in 2015. His Excellency the Secretary will refer to these in greater detail.

The Present Picture of the School

By way of opening of this meeting, I think it is useful to draw an essential picture on the situation of the school, and of the Catholic school in particular, to perceive how fundamental it is for the good of society and for the work of evangelization of the Church. The field of education and of the school is truly immense: more than a billion children of school age, 58 million teachers to which is added the non-decent staff. Included in these figures are the Catholic school institutions, which you can see in the enclosed synthetic picture. According to data of the Annuarium statisticum Ecclesiae, from 2008 to 2011, Catholic schools increased by more than 6,000 units (6,273), for a total of 209,670, while the pupils increased by almost three million (2,950,383) for a total of 57,612,936. However, note that in the same period they decreased in the Americas and in Europe by more than two million (2,023,209), then in Africa, Asia and Oceania there was an increase of almost five million pupils of Catholic schools (4,973.592).

Not forgotten are the great sufferings in which school education finds itself, as for instance, that of attendance. According to data of UNICEF (2013), children who do not go to school in the world are more than 70 million, most of whom are concentrated in 28 unstable States, the so-called Cafs (Conflict Affected Fragile States). 75% of students in poor countries can attend lessons for two or three years without learning to read or write. According to the Global Campaign for Education (Cme), 1.7 million teachers are lacking in the world to attain the objective of a qualified primary education. UNESCO states that in seven African countries there is only one docent for 100 youngsters of school age.

In face of these sufferings, but there are many others, I am pleased to echo the voice that resounded forcefully in the UN Hall last July from the mouth of Malala, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl wounded by the Taliban because she was going to school with other girls: “A child, a teacher, a book, a pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.” The European Parliament sitting in Plenary Assembly last November, awarded this girl the 2013 Sakharov Prize, in recognition of her incredible strength in supporting the right of all children to an equal education; a right too often neglected when it is a question of girls. It is necessary, of course, to recognize that today there is a growing interest in topics of education by public opinion and the international community. Increasing since the last decades of the last century is the conviction of the importance of education. In numerous World Conferences the international community has put an accent on the role of education for the future of humanity, for peace, for sustainable development, for the dignity of peoples, but at the same time one cannot fail to perceive also very worrying factors promoted in the reality of today which threaten education.

The Service of the Dicastery

The Congregation for Catholic Education follows and is itself inserted in this course of attention to education. Reported year after year in the volume of activity of the Holy See is all the work carried out in favor of Catholic school education. This work is carried out through the Apostolic Nuncios, contacts with the National Episcopal Conferences and the relevant Commissions of Education, with individual Bishops, and with the Religious Congregations. Collaborations with Organizations of Catholic education and International Government Organizations are not neglected. In so far as possible, an attempt is made to serve the educational cause with direct participation in significant initiatives.

A specific contribution that the dicastery made in these years was further reflection on some topics, which then found expression in documents offered to the local Churches, to the Religious Congregations of educational charism, and to Organisms and Associations of the sector.

A rapid reference to these documents might be useful to see what topics were reflected upon. The period goes from 1977 to today.

The first area of reflection was the identity of the Catholic school and its mission. Two documents addressed this, that of 1977 The Catholic School,1 and that of 1998, The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium.2 The second argument for reflection was that of educators. In this regard, the 1982 document The Catholic Layman Witness of Faith in the School,3 sketched the professional and testimonial profile of the lay docent in every type of school. Taken into consideration in 2002, instead, was the irreplaceable contribution of consecrated persons in an educational repot, as the title states: Consecrated Persons and Their Mission in the School. Reflections and Guidelines.4 Reflected upon later, in 2007, was the educational efficacy of the joint work of the laity and the consecrated in the text To Educate Together in the Catholic School. Shared Mission of Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful.5 Another topic for further reflection was that of the religious dimension of the Catholic school, with particular attention to the teaching of religion, in the 1998 document Religious Dimension of Education in the Catholic School.6 Finally, sexual education was also the object of further reflection. Vatican Council II pointed out the need to offer young people “a positive and prudent sexual education.” With the document Educational Guidelines on Human Love,6 publ
ished in 1983, the meaning of sexuality was presented in the wider context of man’s fulfilment, as well as the need for an harmonious educational commitment between the school and parents.

The New Document

Added today in the realm of this type of service is the new document that we are about to present: Educate to Intercultural Dialogue in the Catholic School. To Live Together for a Civilization of Love.

The argument that was taken into consideration is very important and timely. For the sake of truth, it must be stressed that it is not new. Something of it is known by Women’s and Men’s Religious Congregations that have worked for centuries in multi-cultural and multi-religious realities with praiseworthy experiences of teaching and formation. However, today the important phenomenon of migrations has globalized the reality of multi-culturalism and multi-religiosity, with the consequent need of an adequate intercultural education. In such a context the Catholic school is called to furnish to the young generations the necessary elements to develop an intercultural vision of living together.

The document has as its main recipients “the parents, the first and natural ones responsible for the education of their children, as well as the organisms that represent the family in the school; the directors, the docents and the staff of the Catholic schools who with the students make up the educational community; the National Episcopal and Diocesan Commissions; the Religious Institutes, the Bishops, the Movements, the Associations of Faithful and other organisms that have the pastoral concern of education. Moreover, we are also happy to offer it as a means of dialogue and reflection to all those who have at heart the education of the person to build a peaceful and solidaristic society.”

Because of the breadth of its destination, we chose to present the argument of education to intercultural dialogue within a larger picture. Extended because of this, for instance, was the reflection on the relation culture and religion, Catholic religion and other religions; space was given to the presentation of theological foundations and we returned to the identity of the Catholic school and the educational community that makes Christ its foundation. This identity is supported by the teaching of the Catholic religion, which also combines well with respect for personal liberty, as well as the continual formation of directors and docents. The key word that links together all the aspects touched upon in the document is “dialogue.” Dialogue is the indication that Pope Francis is offering energetically as the attitude with which the Church must address every situation: “Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue”; “we must go to the frontiers of the intellect, of culture, in the loftiness of dialogue, of dialogue that makes peace, of intellectual dialogue, of reasonable dialogue.”8 If in such a line of vision the Catholic school will be able to play a constructive role, it must not weaken its identity, instead, it must reinforce it, and even less so can its mission be separated from evangelization.

The final objective of education to intercultural dialogue, as the subtitle affirms, is the building of a civilization of love. For Christians the civilization of love is not a vague solidarity, but it expresses the charity of Christ. This is the service with which “the Catholic schools, which seek always to combine the educational task with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, — as Pope Francis affirmed in Evangelii gaudium – constitute a very valid contribution to the evangelization of the culture, even in countries and cities where an adverse situation stimulates us to use creativity to find adequate ways.”9

1 S. Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School, Rome, March 19, 1977, in Enchiridion Vaticanum, Vol. 6, pp. 60-119.

2 Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School at the Threshold of the Third Millennium, Rome, December 28, 1997, in Enchiridion Vaticanum, Vol. 16, pp. 1570-1583.

3 S. Congregation for Catholic Education, “The Catholic Layman Witness of Faith in the School, Rome, October 15, 1982, in Enchiridion Vaticanum, Vol. 8, pp. 262-341.

4 Congregation for Catholic Education, Consecrated Persons and Their Mission in the School. Reflections and Guidelines, Rome, October 28, 2002.

5 Congregation for Catholic Education, Educate Together in the Catholic School. Shared Mission of Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful, Vatican City, September 8, 2007.

6 Congregation for Catholic Education, Religious Dimension of Education in the Catholic School. Guidelines for Reflection and Revision, Rome, April 7, 1988, in Enchiridion Vaticanum, Vol. 11, pp. 262-313.

7 S. Congregation for Catholic Education, Educational Guidelines on Human Love, Guidelines of Sexual Education, November 1, 1983, in Enchiridion Vaticanum, Vol. 9, pp. 420-456.

8 S. Congregation for Catholic Education, Educational Guidelines on Human Love, Guidelines of Sexual Education, Rome, November 1, 1983, in Enchiridion Vaticanum, Vol. 9, pp. 420-456.

9 Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, November 24, 2013, No. 134.

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