Pope's Address to Italian Catholic Teachers Union (UCIIM)

«Teaching is a very beautiful work.»

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Here below is a translation of Pope Francis’ address to members of the Italian Catholic Union of School Teachers (UCIIM) Saturday at noon in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall:

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Dear gentlemen and lady colleagues,

Allow me to call you thus, because like you, I also was a teacher and I have a lovely memory of the days spent in the classroom with students. I greet you cordially and I thank the president for his courteous words.

Teaching is a very beautiful work. It’s too bad that teachers are poorly paid, because it’s not only the time they spend in the school. They must prepare themselves, they must think of each one of the pupils: how to help them to go forward. Isn’t it so? It’s an injustice. I think of my country, which is the one I know: poor things, to have a stipend that is more or less useful, they must work two sessions! However, how does a teacher end the day after coping with two sessions? It’s a badly paid job, but very beautiful because it enables us to see the persons entrusted to our care grow day after day. It’s somewhat like being parents, at least spiritually. It’s also a great responsibility.

Teaching is a serious endeavor, which only a mature and balanced personality can undertake. Such a commitment can strike fear in one’s heart, but one must recall that no teacher is alone: he always shares his work with his colleagues and with all the educational community to which he belongs.

Your association has completed 70 years: it’s a good age! It’s right to celebrate, but one also can begin to evaluate the life.

When you were born, in 1944, Italy was still at war. Since then, it’s made quite some progress! The school has also made progress. And Italian schools went forward thanks also to the contribution of your Association, which was founded by Professor Gesualdo Nosengo, a teacher of religion who felt the need to gather the secondary school teachers at that time, who acknowledged their Catholic faith and work in the school with this inspiration.

Over all these years, you’ve made the country grow, you contributed to reform schools and, above all, you contributed, educating generations of young people.

Italy has changed in 70 years, schools have changed, but there are always teachers ready to commit themselves in their profession with the enthusiasm and willingness that faith in the Lord gives us.

As Jesus taught us, the whole Law and the Prophets are summarized in two Commandments: love your Lord God and love your neighbor (Cf. Matthew 22:34-40). We could ask ourselves: Who is a teacher’s neighbor? His “neighbors” are his students! It is with them that he spends his day. They are the ones who expect guidance from him, direction, an answer and, even before that, good questions!

Among the UCIIM’s tasks, which cannot be lacking, is a correct idea of the school, clouded sometimes by reductive discussions and positions. The school is certainly about valid and qualified instruction, but also about human relations, which on our part are relations of hospitality, of benevolence, to be given to all indistinctly. In fact, the duty of a good teacher – all the more so if he is a Christian teacher – is that of loving with greater intensity the more difficult, the weaker and the more disadvantaged pupils. Jesus would say: if you love only those who  study, who are well behaved, what merit have you? And if there are those that make us lose our patience, we must love them more! Any teacher is at ease with these students. I ask you to love the “difficult” students more, those who don’t want to study, those who are in conditions of hardship, the disabled, the foreigners, who today are a great challenge for the schools.

If a professional association of Christian teachers wants to witness its own inspiration, it is called to commit itself in the peripheries of the school, which cannot be abandoned to marginalization, ignorance and a bad life. In a society that struggles to find points of reference, it is necessary that young people find a positive reference in the school. It can do so or become so if it has within itself teachers that are capable of giving meaning to the school, to study and to culture, without reducing everything only to the transmission of technical knowledge, but aiming to build an educational relation with each one of the students, who must feel accepted and loved for who he is, with all his limitations and potentiality. In this sense, your task is all the more necessary. And you must teach not only the contents of a subject, but also the values of life and habits of life — the three things you must transmit. To learn the content, a computer is sufficient, but to understand how one loves, to understand what the values and habits are that create harmony in society, a good teachers is necessary.

The Christian community has so many examples of great educators who dedicated themselves to fill the voids of school formation or found schools in turn. Among others, we think of Saint John Bosco, the bicentenary of whose birth we observe this year. He counselled his priests: educate with love. The first attitude of an educator is love. It is to these figures, you also can look, Christian teachers, to animate from within a school that–leaving out of consideration of its State or non-State management–is in need of credible educators and witnesses of a mature and complete humanity. Witness – and this is not purchased, it’s not sold: it’s offered.

As an association you are by nature open to the future, because there are always new generations of young people to whom to transmit the patrimony of knowledge and values. On the professional plane, it’s necessary to update one’s own didactical competencies, also in the light of the new technologies; however, teaching is not only a job: teaching is a relation in which every teacher must feel totally involved as a person, to give meaning to the educational task to ones’ pupils. Your presence here today is proof that you have those motivations of which the school is in need.

I encourage you to renew your passion for man – one cannot teach without passion!  — in his process of formation, and to be witnesses of life and of hope. Never, never close a door; open all of them wide, so that students will have hope.

I ask you, also, to pray for me and invite you all, to pray to Our Lady, asking for Her blessing.

Hail Mary …

[Blessing] [Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT] 

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