When Jorge Bergoglio was six years old, his first teacher taught him to love school. His commitment to her never wavered as he visited her until she passed away at age 98. And now, as Pope Francis, his commitment to the importance of education remains evident.
Just this week, Pope Francis wrote on Twitter, "Thank you to all teachers: educating is an important mission, which draws young people to what is good, beautiful and true."
This is hardly the first time that Pope Francis has talked about the importance of education. Last year, shortly after accepting the papacy, Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, called for Catholic schools and universities committed to catechesis and evangelization.
Specifically, Pope Francis identified education as a solution to secularization:
The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal. Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism.These have led to a general sense of disorientation, especially in the periods of adolescence and young adulthood which are so vulnerable to change. …We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data—all treated as being of equal importance—and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.
In that same document, the Holy Father praised Catholic schools and colleges for their contributions around the world, while at the same time acknowledging that those contributions are often not valued when they contradict cultural trends, as is often necessary to remain faithful to Catholic teaching.
“Catholic schools, which always strive to join their work of education with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, are a most valuable resource for the evangelization of culture,” Pope Francis wrote, “even in those countries and cities where hostile situations challenge us to greater creativity in our search for suitable methods.”
In April of this year, the Pope delivered a speech in which he spoke at length about the right of parents to decide the moral and religious education of their children. “I would like to express my rejection of any kind of educational experimentation with children. We cannot experiment with children and young people,” the Holy Father reportedly said. “The horrors of the manipulation of education that we experienced in the great genocidal dictatorships of the twentieth century have not disappeared; they have retained a current relevance under various guises and proposals and, with the pretense of modernity, push children and young people to walk on the dictatorial path of ‘only one form of thought.”
And just last month, Pope Francis reportedly spoke to approximately 300,000 students and teachers from Italian Catholic schools at a rally in St. Peter’s Square on the importance of education.
He reportedly said that school “is synonymous with openness to reality. At least it should be!”
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