Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave in the Vatican this morning to delegates of the International Catholic Conference of Guiding, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its foundation:
* * *
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I am happy to receive you at Rome for the 50th anniversary of the International Catholic Conference of Guiding. Among educational movements, that of guides occupies a peculiar place, and it is rooted in a long pedagogic tradition amply experienced. I give thanks together with you for all the good that the Lord has enabled you to do in hearts. At the same time, I hope that the Holy Spirit will lead the different Associations that you group together on the path to follow to be able to meet the future challenges. Education is, in fact, the indispensable means to enable girls to become active and responsible women, proud and happy of their faith in Christ lived in every day life. Thus they will participate in the building of a world permeated by the Gospel.
I appreciate the topic you have chosen for your meeting: “To Live the Joy of the Gospel as a Guide.” It is a magnificent plan: to proclaim to others, with the witness of our life, that to encounter Jesus makes us happy; that to encounter Jesus frees and heals us; that to encounter Jesus opens us to others and drives us to proclaim him, in particular to the poorest, to those who are far away, alone and abandoned. This tradition of encounter with Jesus and of joyful and generous openness to the needs of one’s neighbor has always existed in Catholic Associations of Guides, and I invite you to preserve and develop further this precious legacy. In as much as Catholic leaders, you also have the opportunity to make the explicit proclamation of Christ resound, who gives joy and light to the world, within the World Association of Guides and Scouts. Here you find head-guides of all cultures and religions. I hope that it will be the occasion of a sincere and true dialogue among you, in respect of the convictions of each one, and in the serene affirmation of your faith and of your Catholic identity.
In the recent Encyclical Laudato Si,’ I have written that education to ecology is essential to transform mentalities and habits, in order to surmount the worrying challenges posed to humanity in regard to the environment. I think that the Movement of Guides, which in its pedagogy gives an important place to contact with nature, is particularly predisposed for this. I hope that the guides will continue to be ready to receive the presence and goodness of the Creator in the beauty of the world that surrounds them. This contemplative attitude will lead them to live in harmony with themselves, with others and with God. It is a new style of life, more in keeping with the Gospel, which they will then be able to transmit in the environments in which they live.
Finally, it is very important today that a woman be adequately appreciated, and that she be able to take up fully the place that corresponds to her, be it in the Church, be it in society. Here also, the role of Educational Associations such as yours — which are addressed to girls– is absolutely determinant for the future, and your pedagogy must be clear on such questions. We are in a world in which the most contrary ideologies are spreading to the nature and design of God on the family and on marriage. Therefore, it is a question of educating girls not only to the beauty and grandeur of their vocation of women, in a just and differentiated relation between man and woman, but also to assume important responsibilities in the Church and in society. In some countries, where woman is still in a position of inferiority, and even exploited and mistreated, you are certainly called to carry out a notable role of promotion and education. I also ask you not to forget the necessary and explicit openness of your pedagogy to the possibility of a life consecrated to the Lord, of which the Movement of Guides has been so fruitful in its history.
The Virgin Mary is the model of woman according to the Gospel and according to the heart of God, of which the Church and our societies are in need. May she be for you source of encouragement and inspiration. I entrust you all to her intercession and bless you from my heart.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]