Vatican City, 10 May 2014 (VIS) – This afternoon, in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father met with teachers, parents, educators, pupils and other workers within the context of Italian schools. The event was organised by the Italian Episcopal Conference with the project, “The Church for the School”. At 4.15 p.m. the Holy Father toured St. Peter's Square and Via della Conciliazione by jeep, greeting those present. At 5 p.m. the meeting began with a greeting from Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, and Professor Stefania Giannini, the Italian minister for education. Various participants shared testimonies, along with moments of music and other entertainments.
Finally, Pope Francis addressed those present. “We can see that this is a demonstration 'for', not 'against'!”, he said. It is not a complaint, it is a celebration! A celebration for the school. We are well aware that there are problems and things that do not function well. But you are here, we are here because we love school”. He commented that he too, for various reasons, loved school: “because it is the synonym for openness to reality. Going to school means opening the mind and the heart to reality, to its wealth of aspects and dimensions. This is valuable. In the first years we take a 360 degree approach to learning, and then gradually we focus in one direction, and finally we specialise. But if one has learnt how to learn, this remains for ever, and one remains open to reality! And teachers are always the first who must remain open to reality, with the mind always open to learning. A teacher who is not open to learning is not a good teacher, and is not interesting. The pupils understand and snub him or her. They are attracted to teachers with open and 'incomplete' thought, who look for something more, and they transmit this attitude to their students”.
A second reason is that “the school is a place of encounter”, and the Pope added that “This is fundamental in the age of growth, as a complement to the family. … The school is the first society to integrate with the family. The school and the family are not in opposition to one another. They are complementary, and therefore it is important that they collaborate between themselves with mutual respect. … This reminds me of an African proverb: 'It takes a village to raise a child'”. Finally, the Pontiff declared that he loved school “because it educates us in truth, in what is good and beautiful. Education cannot be neutral. It is either positive or negative; either it enriches or it impoverishes; either it enables a person to grow or it lessens, even corrupts him. The mission of schools is to develop a sense of truth, of what is good and beautiful. And this occurs through a rich path made up of many ingredients. This is why there are so many subjects – because development is the result of different elements that act together and stimulate intelligence, knowledge, the emotions, the body, and so on”.
“If something is true, it is good and beautiful; if it is beautiful, it is good and true; if it is good, it is true and it is beautiful. And together, these elements enable us to grow and help us to love life, even when we are not well, even in the midst of many problems. True education enables us to love life and opens us to the fullness of life”.