Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met this morning with members of the Association of Catholic School Parents (AGeSC*). In his address, he told them that the Catholic school system "must pass on an all-rounded, non-ideological culture" and that it "is called to foster harmony in diversity” promoting “an education to the fullness of humanity”, one that “is inclusive” and open to “everyone rather than select in an elitist way” its students.
For the pontiff, the schools system also “has to build an educational community in which, together teachers, various stakeholders and students,” in which “parents can play a leading role in the educational process.”
As a Catholic association, AGeSC "is in the service of the school and the family, and contributes to the delicate task of building bridges between school and territory, school and home, and school and civic institutions. There is no nobler challenge than building bridges: building union where division advances, [and] generating harmony when the logic of exclusion and marginalisation seems to prevail.
“As an ecclesial association, you draw from the Church’s own heart an abundance of mercy, which makes your provide a daily service to others. As parents, you are the custodians with the duty and the primary and inalienable right to educate [your] children, and in so doing you help schools in a positive and constant way meet their task.
“You have the right to ask for an education that is appropriate for your children, an all-rounded education that is open to the most authentic human and Christian values. You are also responsible, however, for ensuring that the school system is up to the educational task that it is given, in particular when the offered education is said to be 'Catholic'. I pray to the Lord that Catholic schools never take for granted the meaning of this adjective! Being a Catholic educator does make a difference."
In view of this, “we must ask ourselves what are the requirements for a school to be truly Catholic. This would be a good task for your association. You have certainly done it and do it, but the results are never achieved once and for all. For example, we know that the Catholic schools must pass on an all-rounded, non-ideological culture. But what does this actually mean? Do we believe that Catholic schools can foster the harmony of diversity? How can this be achieved in practice? This is not an easy challenge. Thank God that we can learn and share from many positive experiences in Italy and around the world.
“In the meeting he had with you in June of 1998, Saint John Paul II reiterated the importance of the 'bridge' that must exist between school and society. Never forget the need to build an educational community in which, together with teachers, various stakeholders and students, you parents can play a leading role in the educational process.
"Do not stand outside of this world; be active, like yeast in the dough. What I am asking you to do is simple but bold: make a difference with quality education. Find ways and means to be noticed rather than hide behind the scenes of society and culture without arousing any clamour, or with projects stuffed with rhetoric. Distinguish yourselves by constantly paying attention to people, especially the downtrodden, those who are rejected, refused, or forgotten. Be noticed for your educational coherence rooted in the Christian vision of humanity and society rather than for your ‘façade’.
“At a time when the economic crisis is weighing heavily even on private schools, many of which are forced to close, the “number” temptation increases as does discouragement. Yet, despite everything, let me repeat: the quality of your presence is what makes the difference, not the quantity of resources that are involved. The quality of your presence can build bridges.
“I liked it when you (turning to the president), talking about the school system, spoke about children, parents and even grandparents. Because grandparents have work to do! Grandparents should not be discarded for they are the living memory of a people."
"Never debase the human and Christian values that you witness in the family, school, and society. Give generously so that Catholic schools never become a 'fall-back', or an insignificant alternative among various educational institutions.
“Work together so that Catholic education may have the face of the new humanism that emerged from the Ecclesial conference in Florence. Strive to ensure that Catholic schools are truly open to everyone. May the Lord Jesus, who in the Holy Family ‘advanced [in] wisdom and age and favour before God and man’ (cf. Lk, 2:52)” accompany your steps and bless your daily work."
* Associazione Genitori Scuole Cattoliche