Cardinal Parolin Details Church's History in Education

“Culture and education have never been considered by the Catholic Church merely as tools for evangelisation, but rather as dimensions of humanity with high intrinsic value”

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The Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, spoke this morning at the conference “Educating today and tomorrow,” organized by the Mission of the Holy See at UNESCO, with the Congregation for Catholic Education, to celebrate 70 years since the founding of this United Nations organization, the 50th anniversary of the conciliar declaration “Gravissimum educationis,” a key text for Catholic education, and 25 years since the apostolic constitution “Ex corde Ecclesiae,” a document of reference for Catholic universities.

In his discourse the cardinal presented an overview of the history of the educational service offered by the Catholic Church since its origins, emphasising that the pedagogy of the Church is based on biblical anthropology in which the relationship of love and reciprocity between man and God appears from Genesis onwards.

He also underlined the importance attributed to this theme by Vatican Council II, in which a full and complete education is proposed, aimed at laying the foundations for an inclusive and peaceful society open to dialogue, and went on to mention current educational challenges and perspectives, such as the extreme fragmentation of knowledge and the worrying lack of communication between different disciplines.

The Secretary of State affirmed the need to counteract the concept of the human being as a machine for production, proposing instead a vision of the person, and reiterated the need for formation in dialogue and the construction of fraternity.

“Culture and education have never been considered by the Catholic Church merely as tools for evangelisation, but rather as dimensions of humanity with high intrinsic value. Investment in the education of the younger generations is a condition for the ‘progressive development of peoples … an object of deep interest and concern to the Church. This is particularly true in the case of those peoples who are trying to escape the ravages of hunger, poverty, endemic disease and ignorance; of those who are seeking a larger share in the benefits of civilisation and a more active improvement of their human qualities’, as Paul VI affirmed in his encyclical ‘Populorum progressio’. The Church shares in the efforts for greater access to literacy, to education for all and for continuing formation. These pillars are made even more solid with regard to the fundamental commitment in favour of ethnic and religious minorities and for the female gender, so important for the harmonious growth of society.”

The Catholic Church, an “expert in humanity,” has placed education at the centre of her mission and continues to consider it as a priority, especially in a context of “global emergency for education,” caused both by processes of change and by a reductionist perspective that tends to limit the scope of universal education to a purely economic aspect. In fact, looking closely, the recent financial crisis has been of an entropic nature: it gave rise to a loss of meaning and consequent social apathy. By this refusal, there is a tendency to lose one’s orientation towards the common good and to drift away from the propulsive value of relationality in the name of a minimalist anthropology of ‘homo oeconomicus’, which stifles interpersonal relationships”.

He continued, “We live in times in which many perceive the signs of an epochal transition. As the history of humanity shows us, these periods are marked by instability and disorientation. Faced with the intensification of sentiments of opposition and hatred, it would appear necessary to start to ‘share beauty’ and ‘praise creation,’ acknowledging the contribution that each person can offer and proposing humble and patient closeness between individuals, communities and peoples. At the foundation of this shared responsibility there is, as John Paul II said in his address to this same prestigious institution, “a fundamental dimension, capable of rocking the foundations of the systems that structure the whole of humanity and of freeing human existence, individual and collective, from the threats that weigh upon it. This fundamental dimension is man, man in his integrity, man who lives in both the sphere of material values and the sphere of spiritual values. Respect for the inalienable rights of the human person is the root of all this.”

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