By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis envisages Catholic schools as “welcoming places” where one heals not only one's own wounds but also those of others. He wants them to be places where one learns to read and discern the "signs of the times", but above all, he wants them to help develop in their students a critical attitude towards certain models of development and consumption that create shameful inequalities among people.
The Pope expressed his vision of an ideal Catholic school in a message he sent on Thursday to the Latin American Federation of Jesuit Schools (FLACSI), on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. Started in 2001, the federation of some 92 Jesuit-run schools in 19 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, is based in Bogota, Colombia. FLACSI was started by the Conference of Provincials for Latin America (CPAL), which promotes common policies, strategies and initiatives across the network in the service of education and the social transformation of the region.
Life for others
In his message, delivered in Spanish, the Pope who is a Jesuit, invited FLACSI schools to "go out", following the example of Jesus "who teaches us to relate to others and to Creation". He particularly insisted on “meeting with the little ones, with the poor and the discarded”. "May our schools form hearts convinced of the mission for which they were created, with the certainty that life grows and matures to the extent that we give it for the life of others". Instead, “life which is preserved ends up being a museum piece smelling of naphthalene, which does not help.”
Avoid “selfish elitism”
Hence “welcoming schools” should really have open doors, not just in words, where the poor can enter and where others can go and meet them. Schools should embody the wisdom of the Gospel, which is the privileged perspective from which one can learn so much. Schools, he said, should not withdraw into “selfish elitism”, but must be places where students “live together with everyone, where brotherhood is lived, knowing that everything is connected.” In this regard, the Pope said one should remember that “fraternity, in the first place, is not a moral duty”. Rather, it is the “objective identity of the human race and of all creation” by which “we are created in a family, as brothers and sisters”.
The Pope also hopes that FLACSI schools "teach to discern, to read the signs of the times, to read one's life as a gift to be grateful for and to share". He hopes that they “have a critical attitude on development, production and consumption models, which frenetically push towards a shameful inequality that makes the great majority of the world population suffer”. “As you can see, my desire is that your schools have a conscience and create consciences,” the Holy Father said, urging FLACSI members to be “disciples and missionary schools”, “promoting faith and justice”.