The meeting was a time of analysis and reflection on the purpose and mission of university ministry Photo: Vatican Media

Pope Highlights Three Important Attitudes for University Pastoral Care

The Holy Father’s address to the participants in the Meeting of Chaplains and Persons Responsible for University Pastoral Care

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(ZENIT News /Vatican City, 26.11.2023).- On Friday morning, November 24, Pope Francis received in audience — in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace –, the participants in the Meeting of Chaplains and Persons Responsible for University Pastoral Care, promoted  by the Dicastery for Culture and Education, on November 23-24, 2023 on the theme “Towards a Polyhedron Vision.”

The Meeting was a time of analysis and reflection on the end and mission of University Pastoral Care, but also of listening and sharing the best common experiences in this field.

Here is ZENIT’s translation into English of the Pope’s address. The phrases in bold are also ZENIT’s

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I greet you all: Cardinal Tolentino and the other Superiors and persons responsible of the Dicastery for Culture and Education; I greet the  chaplains and those responsible for University Pastoral Care. It’s good that you are here, at the Conference you have organized. Your presence transmits the echo of the voices of the students, of the professors of the different disciplines, and of those that in the most hidden way contribute to the good functioning of your educational institutions, of cultures, of local Churches, and of peoples, embracing, as well, the numerous young people for whom the right to study still represents, unfortunately, an inaccessible privilege, as the poorest and refugees.



You have chosen for your work the theme “Towards a Polyhedron Vision.” I like a the figure of the polyhedron a lot, because it says a lot; you know that this image is very dear to me: I have used it since the beginning of my pontificate, when I said that pastoral care must not take “the sphere as model [. . . ] where each point is equidistant from the center, and there are no differences between one point and another,” but “the polyhedron, which reflects the confluence of all the partialities that keep their originality in it” (Apostolic Exhortation  Evangelii Gaudium, 236). Thus Gospel is incarnated,  enabling its chorality to resound in different ways in people’s lives, as a unique melody able to express itself in different timbres. In this connection, I’d like to entrust to you three attitudes that I consider important for your service: to appreciate differences, to accompany with care and to act with courage.

[1st To Appreciate Differences]

To appreciate differences. The polyhedron isn’t an easy geometric figure. As opposed to the sphere, which is soft and comfortable to manage, it’s angular, also sharp: it has an unequal quality, as reality does sometimes. However, it’s precisely this complexity that is the basis of its beauty, because it enables it to reflect the light with different tones and gradations, in keeping with the angle of each facet. One facet returns a clear light, another more nuanced, another a chiaroscuro. And not only that: with its multiple sides, a polyhedron can also produce a different projection of shadows. Hence, to have a polyhedron vision implies to train the eyes to understand and appreciate all these nuances. After all, the very origin of the mineral world, as quartz crystals, is the result of a very long story, marked by complex geological processes that last hundreds of millions of years. This patient, welcoming and creative style remits to God’s way of acting who, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us, creates the resplendent sun, but does not disdain the uncertain light of “a dimly burning wick” (Isaiah 42:3). From the metaphor, at the service of education, to welcome the people, the lights and the shadows present in them and in the situations, with a paternal and maternal spirit, is already a mission: it facilitates the growth must be received exactly as he/she is and, from there, the dialogue begins; from there the way; from there the progress.



 [2nd To Accompany with Care]

So we come to the second point: to accompany with care. To believe in the vitality of God’s sowing implies to take care of what grows in silence and is manifested in the thoughts, desires and affections, although at times broken, of the young people entrusted to  you. Don’t be afraid to take charge of all this. Your attitude must not be of simple apologetics, of question and answer, of “no”: don’t be afraid to assume those realities. If you eliminate the borders and erase the shadows of a geometric solid, you reduce it to a plane figure without depth or thickness. And today we see ideological currents inside the Church, where people go and end up reduced to a “plane” figure, without hues . . .  However if a person is wisely valued for what he/she is, a work of art can be obtained. In fact, the Lord teaches us this art of care: He, who created the world from the darkness of chaos and who resurrected life from the night of death, teaches us to draw out the best of creatures from the care  of what there is that is most fragile and imperfect in them. Hence, in face of the formative challenges you meet every day, in contact with people, cultures, situations, affections and thoughts so different and at times problematic, don’t be discouraged, take care of them, without seeking immediate results, but with the certain hope that, when you accompany young people with closeness and when you pray for them, wonders flower. But they don’t flower from uniformity: they flower precisely from the differences,  which are their richness.

[3rd To Act with Courage]

This leads us to the third point: to act with courage. Dear friends, to nourish the joy of the Gospel in the university realm is an adventure, yes exciting but also demanding: it requires courage. And this is the virtue that is at the beginning of every enterprise, from the fiat lux of creation to Mary’s fiat, passing through the smallest “yes” of our daily life; it is courage that enables us to build bridges even over the most profound abysses, such as those of fear, indecision and the paralyzing excuses that inhibit action and fuel misunderstanding. We have heard the parable of the “unfaithful servant,” who does not invest the capital that the Lord had given him and buries it so as not to risk: the worst [thing] in an educator is not to risk. When one doesn’t risk, there is no fecundity: it’s a rule. When, in a soul’s desires, a decision bursts in which creates something new, rebelling against the inertia of a too calculating conscience, that is courage; courage that doesn’t like adornments, either mental or emotional, but goes to the point, pointing to what is necessary, leaving aside everything that can weaken the strength of the initial choice. It’s the courage of the first disciples, it’s the virtue of the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3), of those that, knowing that they are needy of mercy, implore the grace fearlessly and, in their indigence, love to dream of the great. Dream of the great: young people must dream, and you must do everything possible to dream, aspiring to Christ’s proportions: the breadth and length and height and depth of His love (cf. Ephesians 3:17-19). I wish that you cultivate always, in life and in the ministry, the bold confidence of one who believes. And who is it who gives us the courage to go forward? The Holy Spirit, the “Great Hidden One” in the Church. But it is He who gives us the strength, the courage: we must ask the Spirit to give us this courage.



And before concluding, I would like to tell you another reason for joy, which accompanies me in this meeting. They’ve told me that some of you have contributed  economically — personally or through the Universities to which you belong –, so that those who had fewer possibilities could attend this conference. Thank you, it’s lovely. It’s lovely that such gestures become increasingly  a habitual part of your style of action: to make those who can help the needy, with that modesty that Christian alms have. When a Christian gives, he is always modest; he gives in secret, he gives with delicacy, without offending. Preserve this greatness of spirit of giving, but also modesty in the way of doing so. This is very beautiful, recalling that all of us always need one another and, therefore, all of us always have something precious to give. I thank you for your presence, I ask you to greet the pupils and students in your charge, the academic authorities, the staff of your Universities and the Churches from which you come. I accompany you with prayer and I ask you, also, not to forget to pray for me. Thank you.


Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester


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