Catholic education is one of “the most important challenges” for the Church today in a culture that is undergoing “constant transformation”, Pope Francis said today.
Addressing participants in the plenary session of the Congregation for Catholic Education (for Educational Institutions), the Pope underlined the primary importance of implementing the Apostolic Constitution “Sapientia Christiana”.
He also stressed the importance of consolidating the identity of Catholic universities, and the preparations for events in 2015: the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council declaration “Gravissimum educationis” and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution “Ex Corde Ecclesiae”.
The Holy Father went on to propose three aspects for consideration: the value of dialogue in education, the qualified preparation of formators, and the responsibility of educational institutions to express the living presence of the Gospel in the fields of education, science and culture.
Referring to the first of these points, he said that effectively, Catholic schools and universities are “attended by many students who are not Christian or do not believe.”
Catholic educational institutions offer to all “an approach to education that has as its aim the full development of the person, which responds to the right of every person to access to knowledge.”
However, he added that they are also called upon to offer, with “full respect for the freedom of each person and using the methods appropriate to the scholastic environment, the Christian belief, that is, to present Jesus Christ as the meaning of life, the cosmos and history.”
“Jesus began to proclaim the good news of the ‘Galilee of the people’, a crossroads of people, diverse in terms of race, culture and religion,” he said. “This context resembles today’s world, in certain respects.
“The profound changes that have led to the ever wider diffusion of multicultural societies require those who work in the school or university sector to be involved in educational itineraries involving comparison and dialogue, with a courageous and innovative fidelity that enables Catholic identity to encounter the various ‘souls’ of multicultural society”.
With regard to the second aspect, the Pope remarked that during his meeting with the Superior Generals last November, he had emphasised that education in our times “is guided by a changing generation, and that, therefore, every educator – and the Church as a whole is an educating mother – is required to change, in the sense of knowing how to communicate with the young”.
In relation to the responsibility of educational institutions to “express the living presence of the Gospel in the field of education, science and culture”, Pope Francis reiterated the need for Catholic academic institutions to avoid “isolating themselves in the world”, and instead to “know how to enter, with courage, into the Areopagus of contemporary cultures and to initiate dialogue, aware of the gift they are able to offer to all”.