Meeting the World Union of Catholic Teachers (WUCT), Pope Francis reminds Catholic educators that Christian education must be both “fully human and fully Christian” while warning against ideological colonization.
On Saturday 12 November, Pope Francis met the members of the World Union of Catholic Teachers in the Vatican (WUCT) on the occasion of its General Assembly in Rome, which is to elect its new Executive Committee.
The WUCT was established in 1951 as a network bringing together Catholic teachers’ associations across the globe with the aim of coordinating their study and research work designed to bring the teachings of the Church into the world of education and the school.
Its priorities are to create an educational system which involves parents, teachers and students, in order to give everyone proper responsibility within the educational community.
“Co-workers of the Pope”
In his address, Pope Francis thanked the members of the outgoing Executive Committee for their “faithful and generous service” over these past years, and encouraged the organization to “take a positive view” of the many challenges it is facing today, including that of “generational change”, which particularly affects leadership.
He recalled that the Union’s mission as “co-workers of the Pope” is to encourage and motivate Catholic teachers to be fully aware of their important mission as educators and witnesses of the faith, as individuals or within groups of colleagues.
“In this way”– he noted – “you make present in the academic world the Church’s service of supporting Catholic teachers in the faith, so that they can carry out their work and bear witness in the best way possible, in situations that are often complex on the relational and institutional levels”.
Catholic teachers to be both “fully human and fully Christian”
Remarking that the presence of Christian educators in school communities is “vitally important”, the Holy Father reminded those present that Christian teachers are called to be”both fully human and fully Christian”. They, therefore, “must not be spiritualistic and ‘other-worldly’”, but rather “rooted in their own time and culture” and “capable of understanding the deepest needs, questions, fears and dreams of students”.
“There is no humanism without Christianity, and there is no Christianity without humanism”
It is important, he added, that Catholic teachers be capable of testifying that the Christian faith embraces all of human experience, “without clipping the wings of young people’s dreams and impoverishing their aspirations”.
Indeed, he noted, “in the tradition of the Church, the education of the young has always had as its goal the integral formation of each human person, in all his or her dimensions”.
A great responsibility
Pope Francis further insisted on the “great responsibility” of teachers, who are in a position “to leave a mark, for better or for worse” on the lives of the children, adolescents and young people entrusted to them.
“All of us know from personal experience how important it is to have good teachers and wise educators in our formative years!”
Rigidity destroys education
This also requires from educators capacity to continually reassess their own motivations and their methods, adapting to changing times and generations. “They cannot be rigid”, because “rigidity destroys education”, he emphasized.
Ideological colonization in education causes disasters
The WUTC’s task, the Pope continued, is, therefore “to help teachers maintain their desire to grow together with their students, to find the most effective ways of transmitting the joy of learning and the desire for truth, by employing language and cultural forms suited to the young people of today”.
At the same time, Pope Francis highlighted the need to help Catholic teachers to carefully “discern novelties that make us grow” from the ideologization” of education, warning against ideological colonization
“Today, ideological colonization destroys the human personality and when it enters education it causes disasters.”
Promoting awareness on Global Compact on Education
Bringing his address to an end, Pope Francis invited the WUTC to help raise awareness among Catholic teachers of his Global Compact on Education. The project was launched in 2019 to involve multiple actors and international stakeholders to rebuild the fragile educational alliance by introducing new generations to the values of respect, dialogue and solidarity through the investment of the best available resources in quality education.
Concluding, the Pope encouraged the WUTC to look to the future with hope and to give new impetus to the organization’s mission.
An international association of the faithful since 2008
Previously recognised by the Holy See, the Pontifical Council for the Laity decreed recognition of the World Union of Catholic Teachers as an international association of the faithful in 2008. As an NGO, it has consultative status with several international organization’s including UNICEF.
With thanks to Vatican News and Lisa Zengarini, where this article originally appeared.