Cardinal Versaldi: Catholic schools must train free beings

The prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education comments on the directive on the identity of Catholic schools published on March 29: “The aim is to form communities where people are always attentive and the most vulnerable are respected,” he explains.

Salvatore Cernuzio – Vatican City

“Identity is not a defensive term, but a proactive term. In the sense that we have certain values ​​that we propose and that we do not impose on anyone, also because we do not choose the students of our schools, but the students and the families choose our schools. Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, comments on the importance of the directive issued today by his Dicastery under the title The Identity of Catholic Schools for a Culture of Dialogue. “Dialogue is a fundamental element of Catholic identity, explains the cardinal Italybecause we look to the Master, Christ, who “made a school” by going out into the streets, meeting people, bringing everyone together, even those who thought differently”.

Is that what is meant when the pedagogy says that the Catholic school is a “school for everyone”?

I quote a great holy educator, Saint John Bosco: “Education is an affair of the heart”. With this document we want to form communities where people are always attentive, where the most vulnerable are especially respected and where the witness of love circulates, which is the main characteristic of the Catholic Church. .

Besides that, what are the values ​​of a Catholic school?

Seriousness, discipline, research, professionalism, but above all that climate of charity and respect that must be associated with other educational forces. A young person needs to feel accompanied, not in a climate of rigor or science, but by people who respect, propose, correct and allow the emergence of a free personality as a citizen and as a Christian.

With regard to young people, the strong individualism of the new generations has been denounced several times, including by the Pope. Also a shift in emotional and social relationships, exacerbated by the pandemic. How to fix it and encourage growth?

The experience of Covid-19 has slowed down social communication but made even clearer the importance of the social dimension: learn, discuss, play together to achieve a society where everyone makes their contribution while respecting that of others. Our Catholic schools should be an example of this and also a vehicle for maturing models of dialogue, fraternity and democracy in society. If this is not learned in school, it is difficult to do this in society.

Does this maturation process also include the sexual sphere? What approach do Catholic schools take?

We prefer to speak of affective maturation, which of course includes sexual maturation, where sexuality is understood in its global sense as God intended. Romantic relationships must be an accepted subject in our schools and not censored. Nor should we rely on the mainstream, which presents models with little credibility. Therefore, along with education, training is needed aimed at instilling respect for the person and the true concept of love, which is not about taking and possessing, but about giving to one another.

Emotional/Sex Education is one of the subjects that families often voluntarily or involuntarily ‘delegate’ to schools. And it is precisely the relationship between parents and teachers that most emphasizes today’s education and calls for a renewal of mutual cooperation…

This is one of the basic points. Not only family-school cooperation, but also cooperation between parishes, associations and public institutions. Pope Francis invites us to this global education pact. Only when there is honest agreement on the fundamentals of Christian anthropology – which is human anthropology – will that help us grow. The hope is therefore that a whole educational community can emerge that includes school and family. First of all, the family, which is the guardian of the pedagogical choice of values ​​to instill in their children. Although, as I said, over time this task has often been delegated, with negative consequences.

How can these challenges be addressed in practice?

By working together to train trainers. Our teachers must be trained to convey ideas but also to create a community and therefore be prepared for dialogue with the family, the local church and other educational institutions in the area. Our instructors, in short our teachers, cannot be mere officials.

How does education fit into the synodal path desired by the Pope?

It’s exactly the same. As a dicastery, we want to make a contribution with the contribution of the Roman Curia and the local Churches that is not authoritarian, but aims at discussion and reflection with a free spirit, without conclusions. In addition, this contribution from us responds to a request from many visiting bishops. ad limina who have asked us for clarifications and updates on the relationship between bishops and Catholic schools, from the point of view of identity but also the various disciplinary issues when scandals or contradictions arise.

On this last point, the document states that an employee can be dismissed if he does not respect the conditions of the Catholic school and membership of the ecclesial community. Can you explain that?

It’s the opposite of what it seems. Precisely in the face of certain misunderstandings that have arisen in recent years, we want to use education to reinforce the principle of gradation and proportionality, so that there is never confrontation but always dialogue.

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