Nearly 300,000 students, teachers, and parents packed St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding streets for a celebratory audience with Pope Francis on Saturday. “One sees that this demonstration is not ‘against,’ it’s ‘for’! It’s not a lament, it’s a festival! A festival for school,” the Roman Pontiff said to the crowd May 10. The event was sponsored by the Italian bishops’ conference and was open to all Italian schools; not only Catholic ones. Pope Francis listened to several testimonies about the importance of education, including remarks from Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops' conference, and Stegania Giannini, Italy's education minister. The Holy Father shared his own story of being influenced positively by his first teacher: “I love school, because this woman taught me to love it.” School and the family always work together, he emphasized; in the education of the person “they are complementary, and therefore it is important that they collaborate.” “To go to school means to open the mind and the heart to reality, to the riches of its aspects, to its dimensions. This is beautiful!” He then referenced an African proverb which says ‘it takes a village to educate a child.’ “To educate a young person it takes many people: family, teachers, non-teaching personnel, professors, everyone!” “Do you like this proverb?” he asked the crowds. “Let’s say it together: it takes a village to educate a child.” Another phrase which he had his audience repeat was, “a clean defeat is always more beautiful than a dirty victory.” “The mission of school is to develop the sense of truth, the sense of good, and the sense of beauty. These three dimensions are never separate, but always intertwined.” He closed by reminding the students, teachers, and parents, that school is not only for gaining knowledge, but also for learning “habits and values.” A good education helps “three languages” to grow: “the language of the mind, the language of the heart, and the language of the hands. But, harmoniously, that is to think of that which you think and what you do; to feel well what you think and what you do; and do do well what you think and what you feel.”
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