Children need to be exposed to beauty, to the good, and to the truth, says a global director of a charitable organization launched by the Pope at the Vatican.
In an interview with ZENIT Friday, Professor Josemaría Del Corral, who along with Professor Enrique Palmeryo serves as Scholas Occurentes’ worldwide director, underscored that the Scholas network’s initiatives are the “best way" to promote the Pope’s ‘culture of encounter,’ because "it is one thing to talk about it, but another to actually do it.”
Scholas is a worldwide network of schools and educational centers promoted by Pope Francis through the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. It seeks to bring together schools worldwide, regardless of race and religion.
Its roots date back to when, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio pushed for two educational programs that translate to “Sisters School” and "Neighbors School,” which were combined to make way for "Scholas,” and has since grown to some 350,000 schools.
Moreover, Del Corra shared with ZENIT how Scholas welcomed Pope Francis to partake in an unprecedented Q & A with children across the globe via a video conference Thursday, the last day of Scholas’ week-long congress. The congress kicked off with an Interreligious Match for Peace at Rome's Olympic Stadium last Monday.
ZENIT: Could you explain the founding of Scholas? Also, please explain how its relationship with the Vatican began?
Del Corral: Scholas comes from an idea of Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires in order to encourage the ideas of the Catholic Church and around the world. Bergoglio realizes what he did in Buenos Aires [He combined the “Sisters School” and "Neighbors School,” to pave way for Scholas] … bringing together and unifying this sort of brotherhood of neighborhood schools which has reinforced the identity of the schools. Then, from the Vatican, he decided to launch this idea worldwide. That’s why Scholas’ headquarters is in the Vatican. It started with those two schools and now has grown already to some 350,000 schools.
ZENIT: How does the Pontifical Academy of Sciences promote Scholas?
Del Corral: One concrete example is what we had done in these days: we had the Scholas Match, the Interreligious Match for Peace, and the Scholas Congress held this week at the Vatican. The first day related to organizations participating in or collaborating with Scholas. Some universities are also supporting Scholas, such as the National University of Buenos Aires, the Pontifical University of Santa Croce, the Pontifical Lateran University, as well as Islamic Universities, among many others.
And yesterday, for the first time in history, the Pope communicated with children from five continents, specifically with children from all three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The children who participating had come from: El Salvador (Americas), Turkey (Europe), Australia, South Africa, and Israel, all of whom received the Pope’s message.
It is the best way for us to promote the Pope’s “culture of encounter” because it is one thing to talk about, but another is to actually do it.
ZENIT: Can you expand on Scholas’ outreach and whom it targets?
Del Corral: Scholas is for every child in the world, and for every school in the world. I know that may seem ambitious. The Pope needs to reach every child in the world. It has to enable them to meet, or encounter each other, as he says, “Through education, peace can be constructed.”
ZENIT: Could you describe a bit about Scholas and what it does?
Del Corral: The olive tree, which is a sign of peace, is Scholas’ emblem. We work toward peace. The first objective of Scholas is peace, which is why we have this tradition of planting olive trees for peace around the world, which was a part of Monday’s match for peace.
In terms of what we do, we have four primary areas of initiatives, or lines. One line promotes awareness campaigns on human values. The other three are how we develop our own programs for children and their youth integration and to the world, followed by how we support educational programs, and fourthly how we encourage and facilitate connecting schools and educational networks, from different cultures, beliefs, and forms around the world.
ZENIT: Could you elaborate more on some of the ways Scholas achieves these goals, or is working toward them?
Del Corral: Again, neighborhood schools were the foundation of Scholas. One of the main characteristics of our programs is that the adolescents, the young people are the ones to identify the problems and are the ones to propose solutions. Their voice is key in identifying the areas which must be addressed.
Traveling and going out to different parts of the world to see and work with different projects is very important to us. For instance, some like one we have in El Salvador to help combat the problems young people face in terms of drugs and alcohol. These projects are all done in accordance with the values the Pope proposes.
A key objective or program of ours relates to technology, internet, but internet with values. Since internet can be used as something good, but also bad. That is why, yesterday [Thursday], one of the programs Scholas launched was one which is used for education and communicates the values and message of the Pope. All the internet companies came together to launch this platform on the Scholas’ website.
ZENIT: Is Scholas a specifically Catholic organization? If so, should the Pope, according to you, drive this initiative which reaches out to all faiths, not only Catholics?
Del Corral: It is a Catholic organization. Scholas is Catholic and its headquarters is at the Vatican, but it will reach every child and school in the world, otherwise it will not complete its mission. Scholas Occurentes now involves a network of thousands of schools from around the world, of all religions, private or public.
ZENIT: What are your hopes for Scholas?
Del Corral: We have a dream of opening another headquarters, one which would be in Mozambique. The country suffers with many problems, including AIDs, malnutrition, and so on. We hope to expand in this way.
Pope Francis participates in every encounter Scholas has and will continue to participate in everything, in each project and each thing Scholas does. Now he is doing the same as he had done when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires because he’s has great concern and passion for education, and, now that he is Pope, he is doing the same as he did in Argentina, because his priority and passion to advance education remains the same. This is why he launched Scholas when he was elected Pope.
He wants, in the tradition of the Church, that all the different elements, particularly values and educational objectives, are all integrated. He is showing that not just one thing should be focused on, but all these important aspects. We need them all because it must be complete, the whole thing. Different sons of the Church [institutions involved with Scholas and these initiatives] believe that all these elements can come together, such as books, football, and so on. This is recognized in Scholas’ three cornerstones, all of which are needed, and are: education, sport and culture.
ZENIT: What is the next event which Scholas has planned? Will the Pope be present?
Del Corral: We have arranged different events throughout the year. In December, we will have another meeting here in Rome. We have three arranged here in Vatican City, and fifty of Scholas around the world. The Pope will be present at the Congress. Since this Congress focused more on sport, the upcoming December one is likely to be on culture. Culture and art may be our next step.
We need to expose children to the beauty, to the good, and to the truth. It is about this beauty and culture that we will reflect on in December.
On the NET:
Scholas Official Site: http://scholasoccurrentes.org/eng/home.htm
Pope’s Discourse to Directors of Scholas Congress: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-discourse-at-end-of-scholas-event?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch
Popes Q & A With Children Over Digital Platform: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/text-of-francis-q-and-a-with-youth-of-the-scholas-project
About Pope’s Participation in Digital Exchange http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-participates-in-interactive-digital-exchange-with-young-people-worldwide
About Scholas' Interreligious Match for Peace:
ZENIT's Gianluigi Buffon Interview: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/gianluigi-buffon-shares-what-it-takes-to-be-a-winner
Other Players Weighing In: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/athletes-call-interreligious-soccer-match-a-beautiful-experience