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Pope tells Catholic educators to forge open and humane minds

Pope Francis encourages Catholic educators to help form young people who are able to transcend ideologies and cultivate the common good.

By Linda Bordoni

We need to form young people who are “catholic” in the sense of,“universal” Pope Francis said, “We need minds, hearts and hands” that are able to go beyond the constrictions of ideology and speak the language of humanity.

In his address to members of the Organization of Catholic Universities in Latin America and the Caribbean (ODUCAL) whom he received in the Vatican on Thursday, 4 April, the Pope reflected on the growing gap between the rich and the poor and on the wounds that afflict his “beloved” Latin American continent.

Inequality, social and economic crises, and ideological and political polarizations appear to plunge the continent into chaos, he said, but that is where God operates in the most beautiful and creative ways.

The network

ODUCAL was established in Chile by Archbishop Alfredo Silva Santiago in collaboration with a host of Catholic institutes of higher learning. Currently, it counts 115 universities and represents over one and a half million students, more than 110 thousand professors, and some 5 thousand different academic programmes.

Pope Francis encouraged ODUCAL representatives to “contribute to the formulation of policies that are relative to education”, both in a national and cross-border context.

“The pandemic and its consequences have aggravated political and military contexts across the world, ideological polarizations seem to close the doors to efforts for development and a yearning for liberation,” he said.

The current crises, the Pope continued, provide not only the opportunity to take stock of the obsolescence of economic systems and models, but drive us to go beyond solutions that fuel prejudice based on ideology and lead to cultural exclusion.

Thus, the Holy Father continued the duty of a network like ODUCAL is that of forming “catholic minds” that are capable of working towards the common good.

If the word “university” derives from “universe” – all existing matter and space considered as a whole – the adjective “catholic” reinforces and gives inspiration to this concept, the Pope said.

Global Compact on Education

During his lengthy address in Spanish, Pope Francis upheld the Global Compact on Education that he himself launched in 2020 during the Covid-19 emergency to encourage change on a global scale, so that education may become an antidote to individualistic culture and a transformative process of hope grounded in solidarity and a vision of a common future.

He said the Catholic Church and Catholic Universities have a crucial role to play in this as they strive to form men and women with a “missionary heart” and who have learnt the language “of humanity.”  

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