The Vatican has issued new guidelines for Catholic educators, developed to help them respond to the modern challenges of a globalized society, placing a heavy emphasis on inclusion, the need to dialogue and the importance of “humanizing” education so the person is at the center.
The guidelines were published Sept. 22 in a short document entitled “Educating to Fraternal Humanism: Building a Civilization of Love 50 years after Populorum Progressio.” Populorum Progressio is an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1967 on “the development of peoples” in wake of the Second Vatican Council.
Vatican officials said the guidelines represent a fresh perspective on what Christian education means in today's globalized world, with a special emphasis on dialogue, inclusion and creating a “humanizing” approach to education. It was published by the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, which was established by Pope Francis in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's declaration on Christian education.
One of three declarations of Vatican II, Gravissimum educationis recognized the Church's role in education, ordered toward man's salvation, and stated fundamental principles of Christian education. The conciliar document, issued Oct. 28, 1965, stated that Catholic schools are meant “to help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through baptism as they develop their own personalities, and finally to order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life and man is illumined by faith.”
Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, president of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, told journalists that Populorum Progressio “marked a decisive watershed in the history of social issues, offering a new model of ethics that was able to embrace, with a wider gaze, all continents in the perspective of ever-increasing global interdependence.”
The document, which forms the basis for the guidelines, “underlines how urgent and necessary it is to humanize education, favoring a culture of encounter and dialogue,” he said. And the first step in “humanizing” education, he said, is by “globalizing hope guided by the message of salvation and love from Christian revelation.” “The solidarity and brotherhood that arise from this personal and social transformation,” he said, “will be the basis of an inclusive process capable of influencing lifestyles and economic and environmental paradigms.”
Alongside Cardinal Versaldi at the press conference were the congregation's secretary, Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, and the Secretary General of the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, Msgr. Guy-Réal Thivierge.
In comments to journalists, Archbishop Zani said there are three key points to the guidelinest, the first of which is “to humanize education.” “This is very important because the Pope said at the end of the global congress in 2015 said no to proselytism, yes to humanization. So education is above all making it so the person is fully themselves.”
To do this, the person must use all the instruments available to them, but without forgetting “the dimension of transcendence” that the incarnation of Christ offers. “For us this dimension of humanization is essential not only in an ideological or theoretical sense, but in concrete practice,” Zani said, explaining that it must be “translated into paths that go beyond the technicalities and 'proceduralisms' that often suffocate institutions.”
A second key aspect of the text is its emphasis on “the culture of dialogue,” which Archbishop Zani said involves “the need to pass from the throwaway culture to to the culture of dialogue.” To this end, the text outlines the thought of French philosopher Paul Ricueur, who develops the concept of dialogue, “asking that this dialogue isn't done on a superficial level, but on the level of the depth of the person who in order to dialogue, must enter into themselves and...put themselves into contact with the identity of the other.”
Zani then pointed to a third element of the guidelines he said is part of the core message, which is “the disposition of inclusion,” which Pope Francis himself speaks of often. Inclusion means to encounter, rather than to exclude, Zani said, noting that “many times our institutions are exclusive more than inclusive,” and “the knowledge itself that we communicate in our institutions, is often a selective knowledge.” “So this culture of inclusion would like to propose a knowledge that is rather understood as a good that isn't positional, which guarantees a social position, but a relational good, which helps every person to further develop their relationships with other people,” he said.
Zani also outlined several projects the foundation is currently involved with, including research for a new models of education, a survey for youth ahead of the upcoming Synod of Bishops and a permanent observatory tasked with studying international changes and challenges to an integral education.
In comments to CNA, Cardinal Versaldi said the term “fraternal humanism” in the title of the guidelines means “to educate man, humanity, on how to be true men.” “You cannot avoid relationships with others, which are relationships in the logic of love,” he said, and emphasized the importance of mutual sharing and enrichment, “because we aren't all from the same place, there are inequalities, there are exclusions.” The cardinal said that the guidelines emphasize “the duty on the part of everyone to see how to give their contribution to change a situation of inequality or of being discarded.”
This, he said, is because “in a globalized world, where there inequality, a problem arises for everyone, not only for those who are discarded.” Because of this, not only do people need to have the foresight to see and remedy situations of injustice, but institutions and governments must as well, Versaldi said. “Otherwise the world won't be cured of its evils.”
What Catholic educational institutions can offer, he said, is the proper formation of youth in particular, so they can themselves become examples of “fraternal humanism” that others will follow. Versaldi said the congregation won't be asking educational institutions to change their curriculum per se, but rather, ask that educators themselves be formed in the contents of the guidelines and update their own approach based on the perspective the text offers.
“You can't simply repeat the past, even from the point of view of content and curriculum, but you need to also be able to adapt to the new situations, always maintaining in a strong way the meaning of the Christian message, which doesn't change through time,” he said.
According to the cardinal, there are currently more than 216,000 Catholic schools throughout the world with a student population of over 60 million from all faiths and ethnicities. Africa boasts more than 24 million Catholic school students, and is followed by Asia, which has 13 million. The Americas have a Catholic school population of 12 million, followed by Europe with 8.6 million and Oceania with 1.2 million.
Cardinal Versaldi said that “despite falling in some western countries, in recent years there has been a steady increase in registrations on a global level.” In addition to the number of Catholic schools and students, there are roughly 1,800 Catholic universities and 500 ecclesial faculties globally.