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Pope to Students: If You’ve Been Given the Chance to Study, You Must Build a Better World

St. John Paul II liked to call you “sentinels of the morning.” I encourage you to be this way every day, with your gaze turned to Christ and to history

Young people who have been given the great opportunity to study must feel a responsibility to put their blessings to work and try to create a more fraternal world, says Pope Francis.

He said this today when he received participants in the Fourth World Congress for the Pastoral Care of International Students, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. The five-day conference concludes tomorrow in Rome. Attended by students from 36 countries, the theme of the event is “Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium and moral challenges in the world of international students, with a view to a healthier society.”

“In our time, the moral challenges to be faced are many, and it is not always easy to fight for the affirmation of the truth and values, especially when young,” he admitted. “But with God’s help, and with the sincere wish to do good, every obstacle can be overcome.”

The Pope said that the “modern concept of the intellectual, engaged in the realisation of the self and in search of personal recognition, often without considering his or her neighbour” has to be countered with a more “fraternal model,” of someone “working for the common good and for peace.”

“Those who have the gift of being able to study also have a responsibility of service for the good of humanity, and being students in a country different from your own, in another cultural context … allows you to look at the world from a different perspective and to open up without fear to the other and that which is different. This causes students, and those who host them, to become more tolerant and hospitable. … It is important that the period spent abroad become an opportunity for the human and cultural growth of students, and that it be for them a starting point for returning in their country of origin to give their qualified contribution and also a further impulse to transmit the joy of the Good News.”

He also called for educational systems that “teach critical thought and to offer a path toward maturity in values. In this way, young people are formed to thirst for truth and not power, ready to defend values and to live with mercy and charity, the fundamental pillars for a healthier society.”

The Pope noted how exchange student programs are not new, but how globalization has made them more common.

But, he warned, “here too we witness negative aspects, such as the emergence of certain closed attitudes, defence mechanisms when faced with diversity … that prevent us from looking our brothers and sisters in the eye and discerning their real needs. Even among the young – and this is very sad – the ‘globalisation of indifference’ can creep in, making them incapable of feeling compassion for other people’s pain. In this way, these effects can have repercussions on people and on communities.”

“Instead, dear friends, let us hope that your way of living globalisation can produce positive outcomes and activate great potential,” he invited the students. “Indeed, you students, passing time far from your country, in different families and contexts, can develop a significant capacity for adaptation, learning to care for others as brothers and for creation as our common home, and this is decisive in making the world more human. … St. John Paul II liked to call you “sentinels of the morning”. I encourage you to be this way every day, with your gaze turned to Christ and to history. In this way you will be able to proclaim the salvation of Jesus and carry His light in a world too often darkened by the shadows of indifference, selfishness and war.”

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full translation: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-address-to-conference-on-ministry-to-international-students/

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