Responding to a question and answer session on Saturday Nov.21st at a conference to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Christian Education and the 25th anniversary of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, St John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, the Holy Father warned about the dangers of exclusion and educating within “the walls” of a selective and safe culture.
He said “Selective, elitist education is shameful: it leads us toward a human selectivity which drives us apart instead of bringing us closer: the rich are separated from the poor, one culture from another, people among people.” “Education has become too selective and elitist. It seems only people of a certain standard, of certain skills have the right to an education. What is certain is that not all children and young people have a right to an education and that is shameful.”
He urged Catholic schools to “never proselytize”. The Pope emphasized that “you cannot speak of Catholic education without speaking of humanity.” According to the Pope, Christian education, is not just about providing catechesis, but requires educating children and young people “in human values,” particularly the value of transcendence. Education’s biggest crisis is a closure to transcendence. No form of closure does education any good.” We must “educate with humanity and open horizons”.
Pope Francis lamented about the poor salaries of educators, he said, “Educators are among the worst-paid workers: what does this mean? It means that the state simply has no interest. If it did, things wouldn’t go that way. The educational alliance is broken. And this is our job, to find new paths.”
The Pontiff when asked how best Catholic schools can contribute to building Peace in the world, the Pope called on them to provide adequate education for the poor and the marginalized, even if that meant cutting the staff at some of their schools in wealthier neighborhoods.
“They have something that youth from rich neighborhoods do not through no fault of their own, but it is a sociological reality: they have the experience of survival, of cruelty, of hunger, of injustice. They have a wounded humanity. And I think about the fact that our salvation comes from the wounds of a man injured on the cross,” he said.
Spanish Lasallian Christian Brother Juan Antonio Ojeda, a professor at the University of Malaga, asked the Pope how educators can foster a culture of encounter and restore the broken bonds among schools, families and society.
The Pope said Catholic educators must overcome a tendency of being selective and must work to restore the broken “educational alliance” among families, schools and society, which tends to place profit over people.
The pope called on both families and educators to take “reasonable risks” in educating children and youth, helping them to grow.
“Think about it in this Year of Mercy: is mercy just about giving alms or how can I do the works of mercy in education?” he said.