By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić has emphasized the importance of education in the faith for the integral formation of children in Croatia.
Cardinal Bozanić made this call in a letter addressed to parents and students in preparation for the end of the school year amid coronavirus lockdown precautionary measures, and an earthquake which hit Croatia last March.
The Cardinal pointed out that “the end of this school year will be deeply engraved in the memory of all, especially of the students, not only because they were forced to leave their schools and go into online learning, but also because of the extraordinary life experiences they had due to the Covid -19 pandemic and the devastating earthquake that struck the center of Zagreb and its surroundings.”
Covid-19 and earthquake
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, on 16 March, announced the closure of all schools in the country as part of precautionary measures.
Days later, on 22 March, an earthquake of magnitude 5.4 hit Zagreb, with aftershocks that lasted six days and were felt as far as southern Slovenia. It was the strongest earthquake since 1880.
These two events the Cardinal remarked, changed the lives of many families and many young people who lived the “challenging experience of isolation and restriction of movement.”
Cardinal Bozanić noted that children and students have faced the fear of loneliness, illness, isolation and the impossibility of socializing with each other. Many others lost their homes to the earthquake and have had to question themselves about things that have no clear answers such as “human limitation, fragility, helplessness, fear, suffering and death.”
Integral religious education
In light of this, noted the Cardinal, it is important, “that during education we offer children and students knowledge and content that will empower them and prepare them to face the above-mentioned situation, and other unpredictable life experiences.”
This, explained the Cardinal, can be achieved through religious education which offers “content that reveals the deeper meaning of life to children and students.” Besides, he said,“without a religious dimension, there is no complete education.”
Religious education in the school curriculum is “a sign of the ‘positive secularism’ of society” and is invaluable in the education and formation of children and young people,” he said, adding that Catholic religious instruction “encourages reflection on the deeper meaning of human existence (…) placing the human person and his or her dignity at the center.”
Call to parents
Cardinal Bozanić encouraged parents preparing to enroll their children in elementary or secondary school to take advantage of the important opportunity offered by Catholic religious education.
He affirmed that “Jesus Christ offers the key to understanding oneself, the world, life, life events and one’s life experience.” Therefore, Catholic religious education will offer a broader vision of the horizon of life (…) and foundations of the faith and Christian culture that characterize the Croatian reality. This, the Cardinal concluded, will bring students “closer to the value and beauty of Christian festivals, traditions and customs.”