Pope Francis on Education

The Holy Father too reflects that post-Covid, we cannot just improve the way we were doing things prior to Covid. We need to go beyond our false securities and change the way we have been carrying out education in the past. “Aside from the different ways that various countries responded to the crisis, their inability to work together became quite evident. For all our hyper-connectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all. Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality.”

Educating the “Fratelli Tutti” Way

Pope Francis analyses present-day societies through the eyes of the poor and the marginalized. He speaks about ‘Dark Clouds over a Closed World’, and he mentions issues which reflect a wounded society. It is the story of almost any society which has been enslaved by cultural colonisation. Here the Pope speaks about how the local conflicts and disregard for the common good are exploited by the global economy, in order to impose a single cultural model (FT 12). Here, he says, individual interests are promoted, and the communitarian dimension is weakened.

The Oppressed Need a New Pedagogy

‘Fratelli Tutti’ deals with global problems that call for global actions, emphasizes the Pope, also sounding the alarm against a “culture of walls” that favours the proliferation of organized crime, fuelled by fear and loneliness (FT 27-28).

Caring for the Frail and the Vulnerable

The Encyclical responds with a luminous example, a herald of hope: the Good Samaritan. The second chapter, “A stranger on the road,” is dedicated to this figure. In it, the Pope emphasizes that, in an unhealthy society that turns its back on suffering and that is “illiterate” in caring for the frail and vulnerable (FT 64-65), we are all called – just like the Good Samaritan – to become neighbours to others (FT 81), overcoming prejudices, personal interests, historic and cultural barriers.

The Holy Father says, we need only have a pure and simple desire to be a people, a community, constant and tireless in the effort to include, integrate, and lift up the fallen (FT 77).

Primary and Vital Mission of Education

The Holy Father urges us to educate the young people to a vision of an open world. He speaks about “a universal dimension” (FT 83) and “envisaging and engendering an open world”. We need to teach the young to step outside their self and move towards “universal fulfilment” (FT 95). The sense of solidarity and of fraternity, begin within the family, which are to be safeguarded and respected in their “primary and vital mission of education”. The Holy Father then speaks about how “teachers who have the challenging task of training children and youth in schools or other settings, should be conscious that their responsibility extends also to the moral, spiritual, and social aspects of life. The values of freedom, mutual respect and solidarity can be handed on from a tender age…” (FT 114).

The next challenge that Fratelli Tutti poses is to form a ‘heart open to the whole world.’ Speaking about the plight of the migrants, Pope Francis speaks about the balance between citizenship and the assistance that needs to be given to the immigrants. (FT 38-40) He says, ‘no one will ever openly deny that they are human beings, yet in practice, by our decisions and the way we treat them, we can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human’. (FT 39)

The Art of Encounter is the New Culture

Fratelli Tutti offers our young people ‘a new culture’ capable of transcending our differences and divisions. In a world where selfishness is considered an art, the Holy Father speaks about the ‘art of encounter.’ He says, ‘each of us can learn something from others. No one is useless and no one is expendable. This also means finding ways to include those on the peripheries of life’ (FT 215).

Pope Francis is aware that ‘encounter cannot take place only between holders of economic, political or academic power; genuine social encounter calls for a dialogue that engages the culture shared by the majority of the population’ (FT 216-220).

Educating to Fraternity: Endless Possibilities

The Call to Fraternity given by the Holy Father is most relevant for educators today. If the world has to be transformed, it can only be made possible by educating the young to take the right path and teaching them to be more responsible for themselves and to society.

Educating to Responsible Citizenship

“Fratelli Tutti” gives us ten qualities which can be taught to young people to be responsible citizens. They are:
• A responsible citizen who acts morally and legally as a person formed in Catholic traditions (FT 114).
• A responsible citizen who accepts accountability for one’s own actions (FT 115).
• A responsible citizen who seeks and grants forgiveness (FT 239).
• A responsible citizen who promotes the sacredness of life (FT 283).
• Witnesses to Catholic social teaching by promoting equality, democracy, and solidarity for a just, peaceful, and compassionate society (FT 97).
• A responsible citizen who respects and affirms the diversity and interdependence of the world’s peoples and cultures (FT 99).
• A responsible citizen who respects and understands the history, cultural heritage, and pluralism of today’s contemporary society (FT 211).
• A responsible citizen who exercises the rights and responsibilities of citizenship (FT 66).
• A responsible citizen who respects the environment and uses resources wisely (FT 117).
• A responsible citizen who contributes to the common good (FT 67).

The need for Integral Educators

Pope Francis’, June 2019 message to OIEC’s World Congress participants in New York affirmed: “We need to place at the centre of the educational action, the person in her full integrity. To this end, the educator must be competent, qualified, and at the same time rich in humanity, capable of mingling with the students in order to promote their human and spiritual growth.”

Education Listens, or it does not Educate.

“Education listens, or it doesn’t educate,” Pope Francis said to young people from 170 cities on this World Environmental Day. “If you do not listen, you do not educate. Education creates culture, or it does not educate. Education teaches us to celebrate, or it does not educate.”

Global Compact on Education

The Global Compact on Education is an initiative promoted by the Vatican and Pope Francis that has invited leaders of world religions, international and humanitarian organisations, and representatives from all branches of civil society to commit to shaping humanity's future by forming mature individuals capable of overcoming division and caring for the planet. The Pope issued the invitation in a message in September 2019 in which he said, “Never before has there been such need to unite our efforts in a broad educational alliance, to form mature individuals capable of overcoming division and antagonism, and to restore the fabric of relationships for the sake of a more fraternal humanity.” As the Pope explained, “the ‘Global Compact on Education’ is an educational pact in which to invest in the talents of all, to raise awareness and create a wave of responsibility for the common good of humanity, starting with young people (and always placing the human person at the centre).” Teaching young people in fraternity in learning to resolve differences and conflicts, promoting hospitality, justice, and peace: Pope Francis encourages everyone who cares about the education of the next generation to join a Global Pact, which aims to generate a worldwide change in mentality via education.

“To Educate is always an act of hope, one that calls for cooperation in turning a barren and paralyzing indifference into another way of thinking that recognizes our interdependence. If our educational systems are presently marked by a mindset of replacement and repetition, and are incapable of opening up new horizons in which hospitality, intergenerational solidarity and the value of transcendence can give birth to a new culture, would this not signify that we are failing to take advantage of the opportunity offered by this historic moment?”

“We should not expect everything from those who govern us, for that would be childish. We have the space we need for co-responsibility in creating and putting into place new processes and changes. Let us take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies. Today we have a great opportunity to express our innate sense of fraternity, to be Good Samaritans who bear the pain of other people’s troubles rather than fomenting greater hatred and resentment” (Fratelli Tutti, 77).

“This calls for a pluralistic and multifaceted process in which all of us can work to provide meaningful responses, in which diversity and methods are harmonized in the pursuit of the common good. The ability to create harmony: that is what is needed today. For these reasons, we commit ourselves personally and in common:

First, to make human persons in their value and dignity the centre of every educational programme, both formal and informal, in order to foster their distinctiveness, beauty and uniqueness, and their capacity for relationship with others and with the world around them, while at the same time teaching them to reject lifestyles that encourage the spread of the throwaway culture.”
• “Second, to listen to the voices of children and young people to whom we pass on values and knowledge, in order to build together a future of justice, peace and a dignified life for every person.”
• “Third, to encourage the full participation of girls and young women in education.”
• “Fourth, to see in the family the first and essential place of education.”
• “Fifth, to educate and be educated on the need for acceptance and in particular openness to the most vulnerable and marginalized.”
• “Sixth, to be committed to finding new ways of understanding the economy, politics, growth and progress that can truly stand at the service of the human person and the entire human family, within the context of an integral ecology.”
• “Seventh, to safeguard and cultivate our common home, protecting it from the exploitation of its resources, and to adopt a more sober lifestyle marked by the use of renewable energy sources and respect for the natural and human environment, in accordance with the principles of subsidiarity, solidarity and a circular economy.”
• “Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we want to commit ourselves courageously to developing an educational plan within our respective countries, investing our best energies and introducing creative and transformative processes in cooperation with civil society.”

Laudato Si’ 215

“If we want to bring about deep change, we need to realize that certain mindsets really do influence our behaviour. Our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society, and our relationship with nature.”


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