The Apostolic Task of Catholic Universities

[Monday] morning in the Vatican, the Pope received participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Catholic Education, to whom he said: "It is highly appropriate that, in our own day, we should reflect on how to render this apostolic task of the ecclesial community incisive and effective", a task "entrusted to Catholic universities and, in particular, to ecclesiastical faculties".

The Holy Father then referred to reforms in the ecclesiastical study of philosophy, reforms that "will not fail to highlight the metaphysical and sapiential dimensions of philosophy". He also mentioned the possibility of "examining the suitability of reforming the 1979 Apostolic Constitution 'Sapientia christina', … the 'magna charta' of ecclesiastical faculties which serves as the basis upon which to formulate criteria to assess the quality of those institutions, an assessment required by the Bologna Process of which the Holy See has been a member since 2003.

"The ecclesiastical disciplines", he added, "especially theology, are today subjected to new interrogations in a world tempted, on the one hand, by a rationalism which follows a false idea of freedom unfettered by any religious references and, on the other, by various forms of fundamentalism which, with their incitement to violence and fanaticism, falsify the true essence of religion ".

Faced with the educational crisis, Benedict XVI proceeded, "schools must ask themselves about the mission they are called to undertake in the modern social environment". Catholic schools, "though open to everyone and respecting the identity of each, cannot but present their own educational, human and Christian perspective". In this context, he said, they face a new challenge, that of "the coming together of religions and cultures in the joint search for truth". This means, on the one hand, "not excluding anyone in the name of their cultural or religious background", and on the other "not stopping at the mere recognition" of this cultural or religious difference.

The Pope went on to refer to another theme being examined by the plenary assembly, that of reforming the document "Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis" for seminaries, issued in 1970 and updated in 1985. Any reform, said the Pope, "will have to highlight the importance of the proper correlation between the various dimensions of priestly formation in the perspective of Church-communion, following the indications of Vatican Council II. … The formation of future priests must, furthermore, offer them guidance and help to enter into dialogue with contemporary culture.

"Human and cultural formation must, then, be significantly reinforced and sustained also with the help of modern sciences, because certain destabilising social factors that exist in the world today (such as the situation of separated families, the educational crisis, widespread violence, etc.), render new generations fragile".

The Pope concluded his talk by highlighting the need for "adequate formation in spiritual life so as to make Christian communities, particularly in parishes, ever more aware of their vocation, and capable of providing adequate responses to questions of spirituality, especially as posed by the young. For this to happen, the Church must not lack qualified and responsible apostles and evangelisers".

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