Pope Francis calls for a global education pact with humanity at its center

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VATICAN NEWS / YOUTUBE

Dorothy Cummings McLean

Fri Oct 16, 2020 - 12:19 pm EST

ROME, Italy, October 16, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has called for the creation of a global education system yesterday with humanity, not God, at its center. 

The Argentinian pontiff introduced his plan in a video released at the delayed “Global Compact on Education” event at the Pontifical Lateran University yesterday afternoon. In the Italian-language video, Pope Francis reflected on the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on children’s education, called “an education catastrophe”, but did not focus on reading, writing or arithmetic. Instead he called for an education that will create a new, universal, “culture” that will serve the whole world. 

“Education, as we know, is meant to be transformative,” the pope declared.

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 “To educate is to take a risk and to hold out to the present a hope that can shatter the determinism and fatalism that the selfishness of the strong, the conformism of the weak and the ideology of the utopians would convince us is the only way forward,” he continued.

The pontiff underscored that for him “education” is not about imparting facts and developing skills but grasping the interdependence of humanity. 

 “To educate is always an act of hope, one that calls for cooperation in turning a barren and paralyzing indifference into another way of thinking that recognizes our interdependence,” he declared.  

“If our educational systems are presently marked by a mindset of replacement and repetition, and are incapable of opening up new horizons in which hospitality, intergenerational solidarity and the value of transcendence can give birth to a new culture, would this not signify that we are failing to take advantage of the opportunity offered by this historic moment?”

The historic moment to which the pontiff referred is apparently the coronavirus epidemic, which he had said had added 10 million children to the 250 million children already out of school. 

Pope Francis wants a “process of education” that leads future generations to pay attention to “grave social injustices, violations of rights, terrible forms of poverty, and the waste of human lives.” He wants the “integral process” to take into consideration the problems that beset young people today, such as “depression, addiction, aggressiveness, verbal hatred, and bullying.” This process should also pay attention to the “scourge of violence, the abuse of minors, the phenomenon of child marriage and child soldiers [and] the tragedy of children sold into slavery” as well as the “sufferings’ endured by our planet.” 

The pope included neither abortion nor gender ideology among the injustices to children he listed.   

Pope Francis called for an end to education systems he feels are “superficial”, “bureaucratic” and “atomized” in favor of one that will create a new worldwide culture. 

“Today, we are called to have the necessary parrhesía [frankness] to leave behind superficial approaches to education and the many short-cuts associated with utility, (standardized) test results, functionality and bureaucracy, which confuse education with instruction and end up atomizing our cultures,” he said. 

“Instead, we should aim to impart an integral, participatory and polyhedral [many-sided] culture,” he continued. 

“The value of our educational practices will be measured not simply by the results of standardized tests, but by the ability to affect the heart of society and to help give birth to a new culture.”

The pontiff read a list defining the principles of his global education pact. The first declared “human persons” at the center of this initiative:

“To make human persons in their value and dignity the centre of every educational programme, both formal and informal, in order to foster their distinctiveness, beauty and uniqueness, and their capacity for relationship with others and with the world around them, while at the same time teaching them to reject lifestyles that encourage the spread of the throwaway culture.”

The others were to “listen” to children and young people; to “encourage” the education of women; to understand the family as the first school; to “educate and be educated” about the need to accept and be open to “the most vulnerable and marginalized”; to create new concepts of economics, politics, growth, and progress that serve everyone “within the context of an integral ecology”; and to preserve the environment. 

On this seventh point, Pope Francis committed himself to a radical environmentalism, one that calls for a “circular economy” where waste and pollution are eliminated and all resources are renewable. The partners in the “Global Compact on Education” aim, therefore,  “to safeguard and cultivate our common home, protecting it from the exploitation of its resources, and to adopt a more sober lifestyle marked by the use of renewable energy sources and respect for the natural and human environment, in accordance with the principles of subsidiarity, solidarity, and a circular economy.”

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The pontiff stated also that “radical decisions” must be made “at certain moments in history” and that this is one of those moments. 

“Amid the present health crisis – and the poverty and confusion it has caused – we believe that it is time to subscribe to a global pact on education for and with future generations,” he said. 

“This calls for a commitment on the part of families, communities, schools, universities, institutions, religions, governments and the entire human family to the training of mature men and women.

Pope Francis declared that he and his partners are committed to implementing this plan within “all of our countries.” The Holy See’s contribution alone would not be negligible. According to the Global Catholic Education Report for 2020, over 62.2 million children are educated in Catholic schools. 

Although he made a reference to social doctrine being inspired by “the Word of God and Christian humanism,” the pontiff did not mention Jesus Christ. “Fraternity”, however, was mentioned several times.

The pope’s speech was followed by presentations by a panel and by video messages from collaborators in the Holy Global Education Pact. 

The panel included Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the dicastery; Vincenzo Buonuomo, the Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University;  Professor Franco Anelli, Rector of Rome’s University of the Sacred Heart; and Professor Silvia Cataldi, a lecturer in sociology at Rome’s Sapienza University. 

Cardinal Versaldi clarified that Pope Francis feels that the current “development model” for poor parts of the world does not work and that which is needed is “a new cultural model”. This is the motivation for the pope’s education pact.

"If we don’t change our thoughts, if we don’t change the way in which we see the world, if we don’t change our approach to reaching our goals, we cannot change our development model,” Versaldi explained. 

“That’s why, according to the pope, the new cultural process starts from education. It’s difficult to change the mentality of the older generations, and that’s why we have to focus on the newer ones,” he continued. 

“We have to change the way young people think so, as the pope says, they can break that chain of events and pessimism which are the result of ideologies that oppose the true good for humanity. That’s why the pope wishes to launch this initiative.”  

The Director-General of UNESCO also took part in yesterday’s event. A message by Audrey Azoulay was streamed to the audience in which she expressed her gratitude to Pope Francis for his commitment to peace, education, and the role the United Nations’ organization can play in his mission. Azoulay said that UNESCO was “delighted” to be part of the pontiff’s Global Education Pact because “its goals reflect our own.” 

Jose Maria Del Corral, the Argentine president of the“Foundation Scholas Occurrentes” and a long-time collaborator of the then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, gave a video presentation in Spanish. He reflected that Scholas was created for a global education pact, for even thirty years ago, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio thought the education system was “broken.”  

Professor Diane Desierto of the Keough School of Global Affairs atNotre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana also sent a video message to express Notre Dame’s support for the pope’s initiative. 

There were also remarks from a number of students and professors from the audience. They included a Buddhist student from Japan, a Muslim student from Algeria, and a woman religious from Congo. A short film about the hope a Catholic vocational school gives poor young people in Cambodia was aired.  

The Global Compact on Education event was supposed to take place in May but was postponed until yesterday because of the coronavirus pandemic. Currently in Italy people are allowed to gather indoors as long as they wear masks and can maintain social distancing. 

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