By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis is calling on Philippine Catholic educators to form their students to become not just outstanding learners, but also authentic witnesses of faith. The Pope’s exhortation was conveyed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in a message sent on the Pope’s behalf to the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), which held its Congress from September 21 to 25.
The CEAP is the national association of Catholic educational institutions, which functions under the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education (ECCCE) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Founded in 1941, the Association has more than 1,500 members, including schools and colleges across the country’s 17 regions.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Congress this year took place online and was streamed live on the web and on social platforms.
Formation in Christian doctrine and morality
In the papal message, read by CEAP president, Father Elmer Dizon, the Pope said that Catholic education must not only teach critical thinking but must also encourage “formation in Christian doctrine and morality”. Doing so, he said, would lead to the formation of men and women “who are ready to take society’s heavier responsibilities and to witness to the true faith to the world”.
Catalysts of change
In his own presentation, Fr. Dizon, who ended his term as president, resolved that as the pandemic continues, they will remain vigilant in responding to issues detrimental to their ministry. Amidst the current challenges, he said that efforts have increased so that Catholic schools “become catalysts of change”. “This is who we are. This is what God wants us to be,” Fr. Dizon said.
ECCCE chairperson, Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose, said that the educational sector is one of the most challenged today. He said every school has to come up with learning modalities to address the needs of the students. But, he pledged, the CEAP “will not cower in fear but rather will stand firm in being steward not only to the learners but also to other schools”.
Card. Tagle on the pandemic
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, addressed the Congress on its concluding day, Friday, saying the only way to emerge stronger from the coronavirus pandemic is through dialogue.
The Filipino cardinal, who recently recovered from the coronavirus in Manila, delivered a keynote address on the theme, “Mission: Dialogue of Faith & Life and Culture Beyond Creed, Beyond Borders, Beyond Covid”.
The 63-year old cardinal stressed that because of the pandemic, “there’s more urgency of the culture of dialogue”. “A pandemic requires a pandemic response, a general response. And it has to be done through dialogue.”
He fears that “without the spirit of dialogue and a culture of dialogue, this pandemic will just get worse”.
This deterioration of the situation, he explained, is not only in terms of contagion, “but in the sense that the worst in humanity is coming out rather than what is best in all of us.” “The Covid pandemic is asking from each one of us the best that is in you and not to keep it to yourself but to share it, that’s the culture of dialogue,” he said.
He criticized the way the pandemic is being “politicized” by many groups including politicians and health experts. According to him, the problem will just continue when there is lack of dialogue “or when borders are set up” and bridges are burnt down.