Pope Francis: Family is ‘the first and essential place of education’

Pope Francis: Family is ‘the first and essential place of education’

Pope Francis speaks in video message to participants in the launch of the Global Compact on Education Oct. 15, 2020. SCREENSHOT/VATICAN NEWS

By Hannah Brockhaus

Catholic News Agency

October 16, 2020

VATICAN— Pope Francis said Thursday that, among other global goals for education, he wants the world “to see in the family the first and essential place of education.”

The pope spoke in a video message to participants in the Oct. 15 launch of the Global Compact on Education. The conference, held at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, was organized by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education.

“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,” the pope said.

He added: “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.”

Francis called for an education which placed human dignity at the center. This kind of education, he argued, can promote the hope and harmony that the world needs.

“We consider education to be one of the most effective ways of making our world and history more human. Education is above all a matter of love and responsibility handed down from one generation to another,” he said.

The pope laid out seven commitments for people to make, both personally and together, in the context of education. In addition to seeing the family as “the first and essential place of education,” he urged making “human persons in their value and dignity the centre of every educational programme, both formal and informal.”

He also called for commitment to listening to children and young people, to encouraging the participation of girls and young women in education, to educating youngsters about the need for openness to the vulnerable, to safeguarding the planet, and to looking for new ways to put the economy and politics at the service of the human person.

Pope Francis said that he wanted people to commit themselves courageously to developing educational plans in cooperation with civil society in their countries.

“In this, our point of reference should be the social doctrine that, inspired by the revealed word of God and Christian humanism, provides a solid basis and a vital resource for discerning the paths to follow in the present emergency,” he said.

The goal, he continued, “is to ensure that everyone has access to a quality education consonant with the dignity of the human person and our common vocation to fraternity.”

“It is time to look to the future with courage and hope,” he said. “May we be sustained by the conviction that education bears within itself a seed of hope: the hope of peace and justice; the hope of beauty and goodness; the hope of social harmony.”

Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, also spoke at the conference. Echoing Francis’ words, he underlined the “role of the family as the first educational school” and the need to respect “the family as the first institution of education.”

“Because love is the basis of education, if you do not learn to love in the family, I think it is difficult to learn it outside the family,” Versaldi said.

He suggested that everyone should be working together, pushed by the same deep motivation, which in the Christian tradition is love.

With the Oct. 15 event, the Global Compact on Education “resumes its journey,” according to its website. The conference followed a little more than a year after Pope Francis announced the initiative to form an international and interreligious alliance, which he described as a “global village” to educate each child and promote care for the earth.

The Global Compact on Education was intended to be an international, week-long event at the Vatican in May, but was first postponed and then changed to a mostly online event of roughly an hour and a half, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Various leaders in Catholic higher education also spoke during the conference, as well as three young adults — a Buddhist, a Muslim, and a Catholic religious sister — who gave their reactions to Pope Francis’ video message.

During the conference, references were made to Pope Francis’ newly published social encyclical “Fratelli tutti,” and to the document on human fraternity signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, in Abu Dhabi in February 2019.

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