Message from Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students, Learning and Teaching) Professor Anne Cummins: The Vatican Congregation for Education hosted the Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion congress in Rome last week. This Congress marked the 25th Anniversary for the papal document, Ex Corde Ecclesia, the seminal document on Catholic universities.
I joined six ACU representatives and 2500 Catholic educators from around the globe. Many of our partners from Catholic Education in Australia were present and many friends from IFCU too. We began the week with a reception at the Rome Center for Australian friends living in Rome.
About 80 people attended and it was wonderful to see our partnership with the Catholic University of America (CUA) working. CUA students in residence shared their early experiences of the new center with us.
Following the tragic attacks in Paris, the Vatican was on heightened security alert and our French colleagues were obviously shocked and saddened. Further attacks in Mali demonstrated the turmoil experienced in many countries.
The conference provided a parallel agenda focusing on the Vatican Documents on education, for us particularly Ex Corda Ecclesia, written in 1990. The focus on transformative education of the whole person leading to service of the common good was a positive counter point to fear, senseless violence and dislocation.
The work undertaken by Catholic schools and universities in support of their 16 million students was described by various participants. In very diverse contexts teachers grappled with funding, curriculum, access and equity and student engagement.
Fr Anthony Casamento gave a well-received talk on the identity of Catholic Universities and I presented ACU’s response to Ex Corda Ecclesia. The solidarity and willingness to dialogue and share was humbling.
His Holiness Pope Francis concluded the congress with a spontaneous response to prepared questions put by participants. He made a clear statement that Catholic educators should not proselytize students but should assist students to remain open to the transcendent.
The Pope stated that: “Transcendence is what is wanting – for me, the greatest crisis in education, in order that it be [truly, authentically] Christian, is this closure to transcendence.”
Pope Francis also said, “There are three languages: the language of the head, the language of the heart, and the language of the hands; education must go forward by these three ways; instructing in how to think, helping students to feel well; accompanying students as they do [what they have learned or are learning to do].”
“The three languages must be in harmony: that the child, the student think [about] what he feels and does, feel that which he thinks and makes, and do that which he thinks and feels.”
The Holy Father concluded with an appeal to all educators to respond to the brutalities of war in contemporary life, by committing themselves anew to learning and teaching mercy, especially the fourteen Works of Mercy. “Think through once again the works of mercy,” he said, “they are the work of the Father.”