Vatican City, 19 December 2013 (VIS) - “Educating in intercultural dialogue in the Catholic school. Living together for a civilisation of love” is the title of a document from the Congregation for Catholic Education (for Seminaries and Educational Institutions), presented this morning in the Holy See Press Office. Speakers in the press conference were Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski and Archbishop Vincenzo Zani, respectively prefect and secretary of the dicastery, and Professor Itali Fiorin, of the LUMSA University, Rome.

“A child, a teacher, a book, and a pen can change the world. Education is the only solution” said Cardinal Grocholewski, quoting Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl injured by the Taliban for attending school, along with other girls. He mentioned that, according to data provided by UNICEF in 2013, over 70 million children worldwide do not go to school, that 75% of students in the poorest countries may attend lessons for two or three years without learning to read or write, and that around 1.7 million teachers are needed to meet the aim of a qualified primary education at a global level.

The Congregation for Catholic Education shares the concerns of the international community, convinced of the pivotal role of education for the future of humanity, peace, sustainable development and the dignity of populations, and throughout the years has contributed to deepening the understanding of various issues, which have subsequently found expression in the documents offered to the local Churches, the Religious Congregations of an educational charism, and to other entities and associations in the sector”.

This time the theme under consideration, educating in intercultural dialogue, is very current, if not new. “The male and female religious congregations know a lot about this”, observed Cardinal Grocholewski; “for years they have worked in multicultural and multi-religious contexts, with laudable experience of education and training. However, today the significant phenomenon of migration has globalised multi-culturalism and multi-religious co-existence, with the consequent need for adequate cultural education. In such a context, the Catholic school is called to provide younger generations with the necessary elements to develop an intercultural vision of living together”.

The document is intended primarily for parents, “naturally the first responsible for the education of their children”, as well as the “entities representing the family and schools and those occupied with education in the pastoral field. “Given its vastness, it was decided to present the issue of education in intercultural dialogue within a broader context. For this reason it was extended, for example, to reflection on the relationship between culture and religion, Catholic religion and other religions; space was given for the presentation of the theological foundations and to the identity of the Catholic school and educational community is based on Christ. This identity is supported by the teaching of the Catholic religion, which connects well with respect for personal freedom, as well as the continuing professional education of administrators and teachers. The key world that draws together all the aspects considered in the document is “dialogue”. Dialogue is fervently promoted by Pope Francis as the attitude with which the Church must face every situation in today's world. … And for the Catholic school to fulfil a constructive role, it must not weaken its identity, but instead must strengthen it, and must certainly not allow its mission to be separated from evangelisation”.

The final aim of education in intercultural dialogue”, the cardinal concluded, “is the construction of a civilisation based on love. The civilisation of love, for Christians, does nto mean a vague solidarity, but rather an expression of Christ's charity. This is the service through which Catholic schools, which always strive to join their work of education with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, are a most valuable resource for the evangelisation of culture, even in those countries and cities where hostile situations challenge us to greater creativity in our search for suitable methods”.

Archbishop Zani explained that in the drafting of the document, numerous entities, religious institutes and dioceses were consulted in order to gather concrete experience of education in intercultural dialogue promoted by Catholic institutions in various parts of the world. For example, the educational approaches taken in Africa, Amazonia and Peru “include a dimension of assistance to development, and several initiatives are directed at girls, who are often more easily excluded from the school system”. The archbishop also went on to mention the experience of 'Schools for Europe', initiated in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, following the war in the Balkans, where the diocese of Sarajevo had decided to open a Catholic school to welcome children of diverse ethnic origins and religious beliefs. This 'multi-ethnic' school project was reproduced throughout the country and contributed to the reconstruction of unity in society by means of the development of a peaceful mentality and a rounded education that includes knowledge of religious heritage and education in values”.

In the Middle East, too, “Forty-five Catholic schools of the Latin Patriarchate, not allowing themselves to be discouraged by bombs and violence, carry out patient and tireless work with students of various nations and religions, who learn about one another and discover how to build relationships of respect and friendship”.

“Each of these experiences enables us to understand, in a concrete way, how diversity of religion, language and tradition can be treated with care and respect, with true evangelical charity, and become an authentic asset for every group and individual. In each of these schools we see an approach which enables each person to contribute his or her own gifts in the construction of 'bridges of understanding and peace' and a destiny based on love as an ideal to be achieved”.

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