Pope Francis: Peace requires development and education

Pope Francis welcomes volunteers of the Italian Charity for the Promotion of Literacy in the World, and encourages them to continue their commitment to defeating poverty and promoting peace through education.

By Lisa Zengarini

Meeting volunteers of the Italian Charity for the Promotion of Literacy in the World (Opera di Promozione dell’Alfabetizzazione nel Mondo – OPAM) on Monday, Pope Francis praised the Catholic nonprofit organization’s commitment to foster the right to education as a means to defeat poverty.

The organization is engaged in building and supporting schools, organizing teacher training, literacy and vocational training for adults, especially women, in over 80 countries to promote sustainable development and human dignity for each and every person.

It is also committed to promoting a culture of peace through twinning schools in the Global North and Global South and intercultural projects.

OPAM was founded in 1972 by Italian priest Don Carlo Muratore, who after working several years as a missionary in Venezuela, came to realize that illiteracy lies among the main causes of poverty. 

Education is a path to peace

That conviction, Pope Francis noted, is at the heart of St. Paul VI’s Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio and of other landmark pontifical documents of the 1960s, “clearly indicating development as the path to peace” and “that there can be no integral human development without education.”

The Pope remarked that those documents – including Pope St. John XXIII’s Encyclical “Pacem in Terris (1963) – are still relevant in today’s world where the root causes of underdevelopment have not been eliminated because the “development model has not changed”.

This is where OPAM’s precious work comes in: “Your work aims precisely at removing one of the causes of underdevelopment, which is illiteracy,” he said.

God’s ‘dream’ for a fraternal world

Pope Francis went on to note the “dream” of Populorum Progressio is the same as that of Encyclical Fratelli tutti: that is the dream of God, “who wants a world in which we can all live as brothers and sisters in full dignity.”

“When you, in collaboration with many missionaries working ‘on the ground’, study and carry out an educational project, or school support, or distance adoption, you contribute to ‘generating an open world’, where ‘everyone is accompanied at every stage of life, not only by providing for their basic needs, but by enabling them to give the best of themselves’.”

Feed your work with the lymph of the Gospel

Pope Francis concluded his address by encouraging the volunteers of OPAM to strive ahead in their work to promote literacy, feeding it continuously “with the lymph of the Gospel,” so that the Holy Spirit may keep the inspiration and motivations of their commitment alive.  

“May Our Lady accompany you and give you the joy of ‘going in haste’ towards so many situations needing help.”