Catholic education must foster community, not competition, pope says

Pope Francis places his hand on his face during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican Dec. 6, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Everyone involved in Catholic education should want to share the Gospel by the way they live and foster a spirit of community and solidarity among young people, said a papal message to the first African Catholic Education Congress.

"The Holy Father invites all those involved to work to ensure that Catholic education prepares young people not for the competitive spirit that leads to selfishness, but for the spirit of community and solidarity," the message said.

The message, which was signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, was sent to Bishop Philippe Rukamba of Butare, Rwanda, and Benedictine Father Bernard Lorent, who are both co-presidents of the International Foundation of Religions and Societies.

The foundation organized and promoted the recently-created African Compact on Education, which was inspired by the pope's Global Compact on Education launched in 2019 and became the first continental educational compact. As a result, the first African Catholic Education Congress was being held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Dec. 7-10. The Vatican published a copy of the message Dec. 7.

Pope Francis welcomed the reception of the African Compact on Education and hoped it would increasingly become a reality on the ground in local communities, promoting education that draws on Christian values, the local culture and resources, and is attentive to the needs of each community.

"Africa is not immune to the crisis that today's education system has become, as in many places, too selective and elitist, that aims to form the intelligence alone and not the whole person," the papal message said.

The compact should be able to help young people tap into "the socio-cultural values of the African continent, without giving in to the temptation of turning in on itself, but also to be capable of dialogue with other cultures and religions," it said.

However, it said while Catholic education should immerse young people with their African identity, it must not lose sight of its essential task, which is to offer everyone Jesus Christ, "who gives meaning to life, the universe and history."

"Therefore, it is important that everyone involved in Catholic education be animated by the desire to communicate the Gospel through their lives, demonstrating consistency and adopting a pedagogical style that fosters the human and spiritual growth of students," it said.

"Indeed, quality education is a sign of hope and a solid foundation for the peaceful coexistence that Africa needs today," the message said.



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