Cardinal Versaldi is to the left of the Pope --Photo of

'The Paradox' of Catholic Education Worldwide, Cardinal Versaldi Explains to ZENIT

Prefect of Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education Points Out Why in Minority Catholic Countries Catholic Schools Are Flourishing, While Those in Places With Ancient Christian Traditions May Be Facing Crises

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There is a paradox, says the prefect of the Vatican’s dicastery responsible for education, namely:  in countries where there has been ancient Christian traditions, the Catholic schools may be facing crises; whereas in others with Christian minorities, Catholic schools may be in great demand, even if the students and teachers are not Catholic.
Speaking to ZENIT, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, underscored this, when he responded to how the Synod on young people is addressing education.
Noting the Synod is dealing with all aspects of young people’s lives, he reflected on how a majority of the young represented are at the age of formation, in school or university, but unfortunately, despite their right, not all.
The Church already in the texts of the Second Vatican Council, in the Declaration on Christian Education “Gravissimum educationis,” he said, reaffirmed the right of every person, not just the privileged, to education. “For this reason it is a fact, with its presence in society, the Church has devoted particular attention to the field of education.”
Cardinal Versaldi reminded that even in mission countries, the Church did not just build churches, it also built schools and hospitals. The prefect noted that he discussed this presence during his intervention in the Synod Hall, confirming education remains a theme present in the Synod debates.
The Paradox
“Above all,” he noted, “I stressed how paradoxical it is that in the countries of ancient Christian tradition, Catholic schools and universities are a bit in crisis, with regards to their Catholic identity, and their possibility of subsistence, for economic reasons too.”
“Instead in countries where the Catholic Church is a minority, there is a growth of both Catholic schools and universities, although both the students and especially the professors are not generally Catholic, sometimes they are not even Christians!”
He explained that it is the overall population, sometimes even the public institutions, that require the presence of “our” schools.
Fostering Humanism, Not Indoctrinating
“This is not because they want to convert,” he clarified, “but because they understand that in our schools, in our educational institutions, there is a humanism that fosters encounter, culture, dialogue, unlike many schools that instead indoctrinate fanaticism and fundamentalism.”
“So, if almost all of teachers and students are Muslims, for example, why should the Church be present?” he asked. “Because that presence is a testimony, it is a service!”
Not Proselytizing
“It is a way of being present as a Church with our spirit, with our vision of the world and of teaching. It is not a matter of proselytizing, but in the long run the seed of this universal fraternity inspired by the Gospel gives fruit, this spirit of fraternity is grasped by simple people,” he said, saying: “This is a richness.”
He also underscored to ZENIT that there are of course still plenty of difficulties. Yet, in spite of them, “the presence of the Church in the world of education in many places of the world is really significant, certainly improvable, but already now is for many, an opportunity to rise from their position of poverty and waste.”

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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