Christian Education a Gift to Society, Says Pope

Launches Rome’s Ecclesial Congress

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 12, 2007 ( Christian education is formation in authentic freedom since it implies a discovery of the love of God which gives meaning to life, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said that on Monday in the Basilica of St. John Lateran when he inaugurated the ecclesial congress of the Diocese of Rome. The congress is being held through Thursday.

“This is the decisive challenge for the future of the faith, the Church and Christianity,” the Holy Father said, “and it is, therefore, an essential priority of our pastoral work: bring to Christ and the Father this new generation, which in large part, lives in the world far from God.”

The theme for the congress is “Jesus Is Lord, Educating in the Faith, in Discipleship and in Witness.”

Benedict XVI said: “Educating in the faith is by no means easy. … [Today] there is talk of an ‘educational emergency.’

“We could also say that such an emergency is inevitable. In a society and a culture that too often make relativism their creed, the light of truth slowly disappears and people end up doubting the goodness of life and the validity of the relationships and responsibilities that constitute it.”

“Hence,” the Pope continued, “education tends to be reduced to the transmission of certain abilities or know how, while seeking to fulfill the new generations’ desire for happiness by cramming them with consumer products [that provide only] ephemeral gratification. Thus both parents and teachers are easily tempted to abdicate their educational duties and no longer even understand what their own role, or rather the mission entrusted to them, is.

“The Church’s commitment to educate in the faith […] takes on, as never before, the additional value of being a contribution to helping the society in which we live escape from the educational crisis afflicting it.”

Family’s role

Benedict XVI added that the family has a fundamental mission and primary responsibility in faith education.

“The Christian family — a little ‘domestic church’ — and the larger family of the Church must develop the closest collaboration, above all as regards the education of children,” he said.

The Pope considered the importance of Catholic schools which, he said, “undertake their mission on the basis of an educational plan that has the Gospel as its focus, and maintains it as the decisive point of reference in forming individuals and in all cultural proposals.”

The Holy Father noted that state schools can be aided in their educational task by the presence of Christian teachers and families.

“Indeed, a healthy laicism of schools,” the Pontiff affirmed, “as of the other institutions of the state, does not imply a closure to the transcendent or a false neutrality toward those moral values that are at the basis of the real formation of the individual.”

Benedict XVI noted the influence of mass media in education, which he said are often “inspired by a mentality and a culture characterized by relativism, consumerism and a false and destructive exaltation, or rather profanation, of the body and sexuality.”

“Yet precisely for the ‘yes’ that, as believers in Christ, we say to man whom God loves, we cannot be indifferent to the general orientation of the society to which we belong […] to the positive and negative influences it exercises on the formation of the new generations,” he added.

The Pope also considered vocations, noting that in recent years, Rome has had many new priests, but that the tide seems to be changing.

He said that “the most recent signs seem less favorable and stimulate our entire diocesan community to renew to the Lord, with humility and faith, the request for workers for his vineyard.”

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