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Pope Francis celebrated Mass in November at the University's Rome campus Pope Francis celebrated Mass in November at the University's Rome campus  (Vatican Media)

Pope to Sacred Heart University: Education lights a flame of hope and service

Pope Francis sends a video message to the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, and calls for “new models of thought” in order to overcome various modern crises.

By Devin Watkins

The Milan campus of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart commenced its 2021/22 academic year on Sunday, in the presence of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

As the institution marks its 100th anniversary this year, Pope Francis joined staff and students via a video message.

The ceremony opened with a Mass celebrated in Milan’s St. Ambrose Basilica by Archbishop Mario Delpini.

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Flame of education

In his video message, the Pope sent his “warmest greetings” at the start of the centenary academic year for the institution founded by Fr. Agostino Gemelli.

He then reflected on how the institution can be characterized by the ideas of “fire, hope, and service.”

Starting with the image of fire, Pope Francis said the University’s flame has been passed down through the generations by thousands of alumni, who have come to understand that “educating is not filling empty containers but igniting flames.”

“Even before transmitting what one knows, one lights a fire by sharing what one is. This contact takes place thanks to an encounter.”

The Pope said a university brings people together “toward one: one place, one time, one spirit.”

Hope expressed in relationships

The Sacred Heart University also reflects the virtue of “hope,” he said, because it offers an integral education based on solidarity.

“Education is above all relationship,” said the Pope, “a relationship between teachers and students, and then of students among themselves: a community of people open to reality and others.”

He said the relationship between teachers and students is “in tension toward the present and the future,” and that together they are called “to think, plan, and act toward a horizon of our common home of tomorrow, starting with the concrete reality of today.”

Hope, he said, means betting on the future while overcoming fears that hold us back.

“Don’t let your hope be stolen! And don’t let yourselves catch the virus of individualism.”

University is a good place to develop “antibodies” against the virus of individualism, he added.

Shared effort of service

The Pope then turned to the theme of service. The University of the Sacred Heart, he said, has often shown its fidelity to service within the Church and society.”

The work of its staff, teachers, and researchers bears witness to this spirit of service, as well as the daily efforts of its students to walk together “towards a shared horizon.”

Each component of the university, added the Pope, has an important role to play in this concert.

“Without the daily effort of each of you, this common project would be poorer, and would be missing something, as if an orchestra were to lack its tone or the tonality of several instruments, even though they may seem less important.”

Divine Wisdom of serving

Pope Francis concluded his video message urging all members of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart to maintain the distinctive spirit of service by remaining faithful to the Gospel.

“The Lord Jesus Christ, despite being the Logos—divine Wisdom—chose the foolishness of service to the point of total self-emptying: the wisdom of the Cross. In so doing, he bore witness to the truth of the love of God, and in Him—the King—he taught us that serving is reigning.”

And the Pope expressed his hopes that the University might breathe deeply in this spirit of service and look to the horizon courageously in their educational mission.

19 December 2021, 11:21