The 4th World Congress on the Pastoral Care of International Students — from 36 countries and five Continents — is underway in Rome from November 28 to December 2. The theme of the Congress, promoted and organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, is: “Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium and the Moral Challenges in the Intellectual World of International Students toward a Healthier Society.”
Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave when he received the participants in audience this morning.
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
I am pleased to receive you on the occasion of the 4th World Congress on the Pastoral Care of International Students, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. I thank the Cardinal President for having introduced our meeting, and I express a warm greeting to the pastoral ministers and the University students present here.
The theme of your Congress is very interesting: it speaks of moral challenges in the world of international students, in view of a healthier society. This is the objective to keep always present: to build a healthier society. It is important that the new generations move in this direction, feel themselves responsible for the reality in which they live, and architects of the future. Saint Paul’s words are a strong call and an inspired counsel also for today’s new generations, when he recommends that the young disciple Timothy give an example to the faithful in his words, in his behavior, in charity, in faith, in purity, without fear that someone might scorn his young age (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12).
The moral challenges to be addressed in our time are many and it’s not always easy to fight for the affirmation of the truth and of values, especially when one is young. However, with God’s help, and with the sincere will to do good, every obstacle can be overcome. I am happy because, if you are here, it is to demonstrate that the challenges do not make you fearful, but spur you to work to build a more human world. Never stop and don’t get discouraged, because Christ’s Spirit will guide you, if you listen to His voice.
It is necessary to oppose the modern concept of the intellectual, committed to his self-fulfilment and in search of personal recognition — often without taking his neighbor into account — with a more solidaristic model, which does its utmost for the common good and for peace. One who has the gift to be able to study also has the responsibility of service for the good of humanity. Learning is a privileged way for the integral development of society; to be students in a country other than one’s own, in another cultural horizon, enables one to learn new languages, new usages and customs. It enables one to look at the world with another perspective and to open oneself to the other and different one without fear . This leads students, and those who receive them, to become more tolerant and hospitable. By increasing the relational capacity, confidence grows in oneself and in others, horizons expand, the vision of the future is enlarged and the desire is born to build the common good together.
Schools and Universities are a privileged realm for the consolidation of sensitive consciences towards a more solidaristic development and to carry forward “a commitment of evangelization in an inter-disciplinary and integrated way” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium , 134). Therefore, I exhort you teachers and pastoral agents to infuse in young people love of the Gospel, the will to live it concretely and to proclaim it to others. It’s important that the time spent abroad becomes an occasion of human and cultural growth for the students and that it is for them a point of departure to return to their country of origin and to make their qualified contribution, also with the interior thrust to transmit the joy of the Good News. An education is necessary that teaches to think critically and that offers a course of maturation in values (cf. Ibid., 64). Thus young people are formed thirsty for truth and not for power, ready to defend values and to live mercy and charity, fundamental pillars for a healthier society.
Young people’s personal and cultural enrichment enables them to be more easily inserted in the world of work, ensuring for themselves a place in the community and becoming an integral part of it. For its part, society is called to offer the new generations valid occupational opportunities, avoiding the so-called “brain drain.” That someone might choose freely to go to specialize himself and to work abroad, is something good and fecund; however, it is painful that prepared young people are induced to abandon their country because they lack adequate possibilities of insertion.
The phenomenon of international students isn’t new; however, it is being intensified due to so-called globalization, which has pulled down temporal borders and spaces, fostering encounter and exchange between cultures. But here also we witness negative implications, such as the rise of certain closures, defense mechanisms in face of diversity, interior walls that don’t enable one to look at a brother or sister in the eyes and to notice their real needs. Among young people also – and this is very sad — the “globalization of indifference” can insinuate itself, which renders us “incapable of feeling compassion in face of others’ cry of pain” (Ibid., 54). Thus it happens that these negative effects have repercussions on individuals and on communities. Instead, dear friends, we want to wager that your way of living globalization can produce positive successes and activate great potentialities. In fact, you students, spending time far from your country, in different families and contexts, can develop the notable capacity of adaptation, learning to be custodians of others as brothers, and of Creation as our common home, and this is decisive to render the world more human. Formative courses can accompany and orientate you, young students, in this direction, and they can do so with the freshness of current events and the audacity of the Gospel, to form new evangelizers ready to infect the world with the joy of Christ, to the ends of the earth.
Dear young people, Saint John Paul II liked to call you “watchmen of the morning.” I encourage you to be so every day, with your gaze turned to Christ and to history. Thus you will succeed in proclaiming Jesus’ salvation and to bring His light to a world too often darkened by the darkness of indifference, of egoism and of war. I entrust you all to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, our Mother. I bless you, your studies, your friendship and your missionary commitment. And you, please, don’t forget to pray for me.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]