Vatican City, 26 June 2015 (VIS) - “Education is the indispensable means for enabling girls to grow into active and responsible women, proud and happy in the faith in Christ they live in their everyday life. In this way they will participate in the construction of a world imbued with the Gospel”, said Pope Francis to delegates from the International Catholic Conference of Guiding (ICCG), whom he received in audience this morning, gathered in Rome on the fiftieth anniversary of the institution's foundation to analyse the theme: “Living as guides the joy of the Gospel”.
The ICCG unites national associations of Catholic guides and national interconfessional guiding organisations. Its aim is to help member associations to transform guiding into a genuine tool for education in faith and to make its pedagogical richness, formative activities and experience in interconfessional collaboration more widely known.
The Holy Father emphasised the excellence of the theme chosen for the meeting and the programme it has given rise to: “proclaiming to others, through the witness of our own life, that encountering Jesus frees us and heals us … opens us to other and drives us to announce him, especially to the poorest and most distant, the lonely and abandoned”.
He invited the delegates to be faithful to the principles of their movement and to establish a sincere dialogue with guides of different cultures and religions, with respect for the beliefs of each one, and serenely affirming their Catholic faith and identity. Pope Francis then went on to speak about his recent Encyclical “Laudato si'”, in which he states that education in ecology is essential to transform habits and ways of thinking so as to overcome the troubling challenges that face humanity in relation to the environment. “I think that the guiding movement, which in its educational method accords an important role to contact with nature, is particularly well-disposed to this”, he said. “I hope that guides will continue to be alert to the presence and the goodness of the Creator in the beauty of the world that surrounds them. This contemplative attitude will lead them to live in harmony with themselves, with others and with God. It is a new way of life, more coherent with the Gospel, that they will be able to transmit to others around them”.
Finally, the Pope reiterated the need to ensure that the importance of women is recognised, so that they take their rightful place both in the Church and in society. “Here too, the role of educational associations such as yours, that address young girls, is absolutely essential for the future, and your teaching must be clear on these issues. We are in a world where we see the spread of ideologies contrary to nature and God's design for the family and marriage. It is therefore a question not only of educating girls in the beauty and greatness of their vocation as women, in a just relationship recognising the difference between man and woman, but also to take on important responsibilities in the Church and in society. In some countries where women are still in a position of inferiority, or even exploited and mistreated, you certainly have a significant role to play in promotion and education. I ask you not to forget, in your pedagogic approach, the necessary and explicit openness to the possibility of a life consecrated to the Lord, an area in which the guiding movement has historically been fruitful”.