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Friday, September 17, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 17 SEP 2010 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father travelled twelve kilometres by car from the apostolic nunciature in London, England, to St. Mary's University College at Twickenham. The institution, founded in 1850 to educate the children of poorer Catholic families, was initially run by the Brothers of Christian Schools but passed to the Vincentians in 1899. It currently has 4,000 students. From 1920 to 1989 it was part of the University of London but now issues its own academic qualifications.

  The Pope was greeted by the rector and the chaplain of the university, by Michael Gove, minister for Education, and by Bishop George Stack, auxiliary of Westminster. They accompanied him to the university chapel where 300 religious who work in education were awaiting his arrival. Once there the Pope delivered his address.

  "You form new generations not only in knowledge of the faith, but in every aspect of what it means to live as mature and responsible citizens in today's world", said the Holy Father. "Education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full - in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator".

  "This transcendent dimension of study and teaching was clearly grasped by the monks who contributed so much to the evangelisation of these islands", he said. "Since the search for God, which lies at the heart of the monastic vocation, requires active engagement with the means by which He makes Himself known - His creation and His revealed word - it was only natural that the monastery should have a library and a school. ... It was the monks' dedication to learning as the path on which to encounter the Incarnate Word of God that was to lay the foundations of our Western culture and civilisation".

  The Holy Father thanked the members of the teaching orders which, he said, "have carried the light of the Gospel to far-off lands as part of the Church's great missionary work. ... Often", he told his audience, "you laid the foundations of educational provision long before the State assumed a responsibility for this vital service to the individual and to society.

  "As the relative roles of Church and State in the field of education continue to evolve", the Pope added, "never forget that religious have a unique contribution to offer to this apostolate, above all through lives consecrated to God and through faithful, loving witness to Christ, the supreme Teacher. Indeed, the presence of religious in Catholic schools is a powerful reminder of the much-discussed Catholic ethos that needs to inform every aspect of school life. This extends far beyond the self-evident requirement that the content of the teaching should always be in conformity with Church doctrine".

  Pope Benedict concluded by expressing his particular appreciation "for those whose task it is to ensure that our schools provide a safe environment for children and young people. Our responsibility towards those entrusted to us for their Christian formation demands nothing less. Indeed, the life of faith can only be effectively nurtured when the prevailing atmosphere is one of respectful and affectionate trust. I pray that this may continue to be a hallmark of the Catholic schools in this country".
PV-UNITED KINGDOM/                        VIS 20100917 (570)

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