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Pope Cites Importance of ‘Three Languages’ in Education

Address to Participants in International Federation of Catholic Universities (FIUC) Convention

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Education in a university goes far beyond learning concepts — and requires overcoming the legacy of the Enlightenment. It also involved three languages.

This was at the core of the message Pope Francis delivered November 4, 2019, to participants in the International Federation of Catholic Universities (FIUC) Convention, which takes place from November 4-5, 2019 in Rome, at the Augustinianum Congress Center, on the theme: “New Frontiers” at the Vatican. for university leaders. The future of health and the university ecosystem “.

“It is necessary to overcome the legacy of the Enlightenment,” Pope Francis said. “Educating, in general, but particularly in universities, is not just filling the head with concepts. It takes three languages.”

He said those three languages, which must work in harmony are:

  • the language of the mind
  • the language of the heart
  • the language of the hands

He explained that the three must work together  “so that one thinks in harmony with what one feels and does; feel in harmony with what you think and do, do it in harmony with what you feel and think. A general harmony, not separated from the totality.

“The university has a conscience, but also an intellectual and moral strength whose responsibility goes beyond the person to be educated and extends to the needs of all humanity.”

Speech of the Holy Father

Magnificent Rectors and esteemed Teachers,

Welcome to this meeting, on the occasion of the conference of the International Federation of Catholic Universities on the theme “New frontiers for university leaders. The future of health and the university ecosystem “. I cordially greet the President, Prof. Isabel Capeloa Gil, [in Spanish] and I thank her for the courtesy of having spoken in Castilian, and all those present, while I thank the Federation for this commitment to study and research.

Today the university system is faced with unprecedented challenges that come from the development of the sciences, from the evolution of new technologies and from the needs of society that urge academic institutions to provide adequate and updated answers. The strong pressure, felt in the various areas of socio-economic, political and cultural life, therefore challenges the very vocation of the university, in particular the task of teachers to teach and do research and to prepare the young generations to become not only qualified professionals in various disciplines, but also protagonists of the common good, creative leaders and leaders of social and civil life with a correct vision of man and the world.

If these challenges affect the entire university system, Catholic universities should feel these needs even more sharply. With your universal openness (precisely from “universitas”), you can make the Catholic university the place where solutions for civil and cultural progress for people and for humanity, marked by solidarity, can be pursued with constancy and professionalism, considering what is contingent without losing sight of what has a more general value. The old and new problems must be studied in their specificity and immediacy, but always within a personal and global perspective. Interdisciplinarity, international cooperation, and resource sharing are important elements for universality to be translated into solidarity and fruitful projects in favor of man,

The development of technosciences, as can already be seen, is destined to increasingly influence the physical and psychological health of people. But since it also affects the methods and processes of academic studies, today more than in the past it must be remembered that every teaching also implies a questioning of the “whys”, that is, it requires a reflection on the fundamentals and aims of each discipline. An education reduced to mere technical education or mere information becomes an alienation of education; to believe that we can transmit knowledge by abstracting from their ethical dimension, would be like giving up educating.

It is necessary to overcome the legacy of the Enlightenment. Educating, in general, but particularly in universities, is not just filling the head with concepts. It takes three languages. It is necessary that the various languages ​​come into play: the language of the mind, the language of the heart and the language of the hands, so that one thinks in harmony with what one feels and does; feel in harmony with what you think and do, do it in harmony with what you feel and think. A general harmony, not separated from the totality. It is, therefore, necessary to act first of all starting from an idea of ​​education conceived as a teleological process, that is, which looks towards the end, necessarily oriented towards an end and, therefore, towards a precise vision of man. But it is also necessary to have a further perspective to face the issue of why – that is, of the ethical sphere – in the educational field. This is its typically epistemological character that concerns the whole of knowledge, and not only the humanistic ones but also the natural, scientific and technological ones. The connection between knowledge and purpose refers to the theme of intentionality and the role of the subject in every cognitive process. And so we come to a new episteme; It’s a challenge: to make a new episteme. Traditional epistemology had emphasized this role by considering the impersonal character of every knowledge as a condition of objectivity, an essential requisite of the universality and communicability of knowledge. Today, however, numerous authors emphasize that there are no totally impersonal experiences: the mindset, the normative convictions, the categories, the creativity, the existential experiences of the subject represent a “tacit dimension” of knowledge but always present, an indispensable factor for the acceptance of scientific progress. We can’t think of a new laboratory episteme, it doesn’t go, but of life yes.

In this horizon, the university has a conscience, but also an intellectual and moral strength whose responsibility goes beyond the person to be educated and extends to the needs of all humanity. And the FIUC is called to assume the moral imperative to work towards a more united international academic community, on the one hand sinking its roots more faithfully into that Christian context from which the universities originated and, on the other, consolidating the network between the universities of ancient birth and the younger ones, to develop a universal spirit aimed at increasing the quality of the cultural life of people and peoples. The ecosystem of the universities is built if every university cultivates a particular sensitivity, that given to him by his attention to man, to the whole man,

Leadership training achieves its goals when it manages to invest academic time with the aim of developing not only the mind but also the “heart”, consciousness, and practical skills of the student; scientific and theoretical knowledge must be mixed with the sensitivity of the scholar and researcher so that the fruits of the study are not acquired in a self-referential sense, only to affirm one’s professional position, but are projected in a relational and social sense. Ultimately, just as every scientist and every man of culture has an obligation to serve more because he knows more, so the university community, especially if it is of Christian inspiration, and the ecosystem of academic institutions must respond together to the same obligation.

In this perspective, the path that the Church, and with it Catholic intellectuals, must take, is briefly expressed by the Patron of the FIUC, the new canonized Cardinal Newman, in this way: “The Church is not afraid of knowledge, but it purifies everything, it does not suffocate any element of our nature but cultivates everything “[1]. Thanks.


[1] The Idea of ​​a University, Westminster, p. 234.

[01745-IT.02] [Original text: Italian]

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

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Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a husband, father, grandfather, writer, and communications consultant. He also likes playing the piano and fishing. He writes from the Chicago area.

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