The Holy See reaffirmed the importance of literacy, whose first aim is to enable millions of men to communicate easily among themselves, to have an easier social and economic life,” said Monsignor Follo.
Monsignor Francesco Follo, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer at UNESCO, intervened on Monday, November 6, 2017, in the 39th session of UNESCO’s General Conference at Paris. He proposed three topics for discussion in the political debate: personal development beginning with literacy, education, culture and faith as positive response to terrorism as well as the global cultural patrimony and education.
Literacy, Still Relevant
Monsignor Follo recalled the message addressed to UNESCO 50 years ago, in August of 1967 by Blessed Pope Paul VI, on the occasion of World Literacy Day. This message, he stressed, “remains totally timely, and we live in a world where what is most banal for us, to read and write, is a luxury for a great number” of people. “This situation must not endure,” said Monsignor Follo.
As an international institution, but also as individuals, UNESCO has the vocation to give and to transmit. What we have to give and to transmit, we stress, isn’t a surplus, but<something that is> due. All have the right to know, without which the human experience would remain poor,” said the Holy See’s Permanent Observer.
The Holy See “is particularly happy about UNESCO’s desire to implement the objective of sustainable development 4 at the level of the quality of education,” as well as “the whole” of the programs that will contribute “to the elimination of poverty and the reduction of inequalities,” stressed Monsignor Follo.
The Permanent Observer recalled that “development” doe snot mean only “economic development” but “calls necessarily for another growth, which is that of man in his totality.” “If economic development isn’t accompanied by cultural enrichment, there is the possibility that a potential won’t be realized, which will be lost: man who benefits only from material development will undoubtedly acquire economic ease, but he would remain poor, because the best of our patrimony – our cultural patrimony – won’t be transmitted to him. True development is “personal,” he emphasized.
Migrations for Peace and Bread
Monsignor Follo also highlighted the subject of migration, stressing that “migrant populations are not seeking cultural experiences: they are asking for peace and bread.” However, all “humanitarian’ aid is done short term,” he lamented. And “for one cut off from his homeland, and it’s often in a definitive way, it’s a new house in which we should be capable of hospitality.”
“We won’t be fully hospitable unless we offer migrants the means to become our fellow citizens, knowing well that if they don’t become so, there will always be failures and often tragedies,” he emphasized.
Monsignor Follo pointed out the profound link between the patrimony and education. “We are heirs of cultural treasures, material or immaterial, that we must preserve . . . They are to be transmitted to our children. It’s for generations to come that these treasures wait to be made known.”
The Mission of Spiritual Traditions
It is necessary that “every migrant that comes to us, in addition to finding bread and peace, finds intellectual and spiritual nourishment prepared by others than himself, but prepared also for him.” Among the values to be transmitted, he noted, is “the heritage” of the European Continent, the “message of love of neighbor, of forgiveness of enemies, of the equality of all before the Absolute, which highlights the Christian ethic.”
Monsignor Follo said that “the spiritual and religious traditions” “have a mission to fulfil.” “They must know themselves to be at the service of all men: he who presents himself as foreign to this or that tradition . . . has the right to kindness and solicitude, without restrictions on the part of those who belong to these traditions.”
The Permanent Observer recalled Pope Paul VI’s words, who said of the Catholic Church that she is “expert in humanity.” “Christianity is certainly not alone in possessing such competence. Hence, one must draw from all spiritual traditions what they have that is best to collaborate with this culture of peace, without which man cannot reach in history, his full intellectual, moral and therefore spiritual stature,” he explained.
Monsignor Follo ended his address quoting Pope Francis’ words, on explaining the “concept of person – <who is> born and dies in Christianity.” “The ‘person,’ stressed the Pontiff on April 4, 2017, always spells relation and not individualism, affirms inclusion and not exclusion, unique and inviolable dignity and not exploitation, freedom and not constraint. The Church doesn’t cease to offer this wisdom and this expertise to the world, being aware that integral development is the way of the good that the human family is called to follow.”
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester