Here is a translation of an address Pope Francis gave Saturday to representatives of the Catholic Schools Parents’ Association (Associazione Genitori Scuole Cattoliche: AGESC).
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to welcome you all, representatives on the Catholic Schools Parents’ Association, on the occasion of the 40 years of your foundation. You are here, not only to be confirmed in your journey of faith, but also to express the truth of the commitment that distinguished you: that, freely assumed, of being educators according to the heart of God and of the Church.
An important world congress took place a short time ago, organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education. In that circumstance, I made evident the importance of promoting an education to the fullness of humanity, because to speak of Catholic education is equivalent to speaking of the human, of humanism. I exhorted to an inclusive education, an education that has a place for all and not to choose in an elitist way the recipients of its commitment.
It is the same challenge that you face today. Your Association places itself at the service of the school and of the family, contributing to the delicate task to throw bridges between school and territory, between school and family, between school and civil institutions. To repair the educational pact, because the educational pact is ruined, because the educational pact is broken! — and we must repair it. To throw bridges: there is no more noble challenge! To build union where division advances, to generate harmony when the logic of exclusion and of marginalization seems to be the best.
As an Ecclesial Association, you draw from the very heart of the Church an abundance of mercy, which makes of your work a daily service for others. As parents, you are the depositories of the duty and the primary and inalienable right to educate your children, thus helping in a positive and constant way the task of the school. It is your right to request an appropriate education for your children, an integral education open to the most authentic human and Christian values. It is up to you, however, to see that the school is up to the measure of the educational task entrusted to it, in particular when the education proposed is expressed as “Catholic.” I pray the Lord that the Catholic school will never take for granted the meaning of this adjective! In fact, to be Catholic educators makes the difference
And then we must ask ourselves: what are the requisites for a school to be able to say that it is truly Catholic? This could be a good work to do in your Association. You certainly have done it and do it, but the results are never acquired once and for all. For instance: we know that the Catholic school must transmit an integral, not ideological, culture. But what does this mean concretely? Or again, we are convinced that the Catholic school is called to foster the harmony of diversities. How can this be done concretely? It is a challenge that is anything but easy. Thank God, there are in Italy and in the world many positive experiences that can be known and shared.
In the meeting that Saint John Paul II had with you in June of 1998, he confirmed the importance of the “bridge” that must exist between the school and the society. Do not evade ever the need to build an educating community in which, together with the docents, to various operators and to students, you, parents can be protagonists of the educational process.
You are not outside of the world, but alive, as the leaven in the dough. The invitation I address to you is simple but audacious: be able to make the difference with the formative quality. Be able to find forms and ways so as not to pass unobserved behind the scenes of society and of culture. Not arousing clamors, not with projects made up of rhetoric. Be able to distinguish yourselves for your constant attention to the person, in a special way to the least, to those that are discarded, rejected, forgotten. Be able to make yourselves noted not by a “facade,” but for an educational coherence rooted in the Christian vision of man and of society.
At a moment in which the economic crisis makes itself felt heavily also on private schools, many of which are constrained to close, the temptation of “numbers” appears with more insistence, and with it that of discouragement. Yet, despite everything, I repeat to you: the difference is made with the quality of your presence, and not with the quality of the resources that can be put in the field, with the quality of your presence, there, to be bridges. And I was pleased that you [he turns to the President], speaking of the school, talked about the children, the parents and also the grandparents. Because grandparents have something to do! Do not discard the grandparents who are the living memory of the people!
Never sell off the human and Christian values of which you are witnesses in the family, in the school and in the society. Make your contribution generously so that the Catholic school never becomes an “expedient,” or an insignificant alternative among the various formative institutions. Collaborate so that Catholic education has the face of that new humanism that emerged from the Ecclesial Congress of Florence. Commit yourselves, so that Catholic schools are truly open to all. May the Lord Jesus, who in the Holy Family of Nazareth, grew in age, wisdom and grace (cf. Luke 2:52), support your steps and bless your daily commitment.
Thank you for this meeting, thank you for your work and for your witness. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer. And you, please, do not forget to pray for me.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]