On Thursday afternoon, May 20, 2021, Pope Francis visited the headquarters of Scholas Occurrentes in Rome’s Saint Calixtus Palace, on the occasion of the opening of new Scholas sites in five Continents.
Docents of seven regions of Italy presented the Holy Father the results obtained from the programs carried out during the year of pandemic, which were an essential support for its educational communities, pointed out Scholas in a note.
As a fruit of this work, the Italian Ministers of Education and Health, Patrizio Bianchi and Roberto Speranza, who attended the meeting, expressed their support to implement a program of Emotional Health in the whole of Italy, concluding with an International Education and Emotional Health Meeting, which will take place in Rome.
In addition to testimonies from people worldwide, Italy’s Health Minister spoke, highlighting Pope Francis’ message during the pandemic, who constantly reminded that we could not overcome it alone. He also handed the Holy Father a drawing by his daughter.
It was announced during the course of this event that this year, the health situation permitting, a world meeting is to be held in Rome with Scholas representatives from all over the world. In his address, the Italian Minister of Education, stressed that the school must be like Scholas: affectionate, a space where one learns how to live and listen to others.
Then the Pope was in contact with students of new Scholas centers in different parts of the world. Exaudi was present at the ceremony held in Valencia in the Levante UD stadium. During the connection, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, Archbishop of Valencia; the President of the Soccer Club, Quico Catalán; and the President of the Valencia Community, Ximo Puig, expressed words of gratitude to Pope Francis.
Finally, Andres, a Valencia youth, handed the Authorities a rag ball, as symbol of Scholas’ essence, and he asked His Holiness why it’s important to keep one’s origin in mind. The Bishop of Rome said that in fact, the meaning of that rag ball is “to recall a time in which sports, games, the gratuitousness of the games was much better than the ulterior sophistication. It’s to return to the origin, when the game was better than wealth or poverty; it was the gratuitousness of encountering one another (. . .). In sport and in life, if we forget gratuitousness, we lose the game,” he said.
A special moment was experienced when Pope Bergoglio was connected with the new Scholas’ premises in Sidney, Australia, celebrating the permanent presence of the Scholas educational community in five continents.
Scholas will work with the Australian Catholic University (ACU) on a proposal for an educational implementation of the Encyclical Laudato Si’, in addition to Scholas Citizenship and Scholas Labs. Scholas reported that since 2014 the Pontiff had been connected with young people of Australia, who expressed their longing and enthusiasm to be part of Scholas, which became a reality today.
The United States
Pope Francis greeted those present in the new Scholas premises in Washington, DC, the United States, born with the support of Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, and with the virtual company of Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States.
In 2019 Scholas implemented the Citizenship educational program in Miami’s public schools, in which young people identified the problems of mental health and the use of arms in the school. Held that same year was the International Congress of Scholas Chairs at Fordham University in New York, in which 140 academics from around the world took part, and which was attended by Monsignor Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer at the United Nations <in New York>. This Congress analyzed the results of the Scholas Chairs in several Universities around the world and the need to build a bridge between the school and the University.
Finally, the Pontiff was connected to the Impenetrable zone in Chaco, Argentina, where he surprised the young people taking part in a program to prevent addictions, which Scholas carries out with a team of educators, who have gone to live permanently in the area.
The Governor of the Province of Chaco, Jorge Capitanich, together with the educational Authorities, told Francis that a space was made available for the functioning of educational workshops, which became a place of encounter and creativity.
The Need to Change Politics
As part of Thursday’s meeting, young people of Iraq, Colombia, Spain, Chile, the Arab Emirates, Brazil, Italy, Argentina, Mexico, and Paraguay, among others, explained to the Pope how they and their companions see current politics. They reflected on the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti and the need to create a new political formation to promote the common good and strengthen democratic institutions. The Fratelli Tutti School of Politics is a joint educational proposal of Scholas Occurrentes and Leadership with the Common Sense Foundation, presided over by Antonio Sola, which will be directed by Juan Ignacio Maquieyra.
Giacomo, a young Italian, asked the Pontiff how young people can change politics to make the Fratelli Tutti dream become a reality. The Holy Father answered: “I say this to you, politics is the highest form of charity, love is political, social, for all and, when this universality of love is lacking, politics falls, it gets sick, it becomes bad. When I’m asked how politics is in the world, I say ‘look where there are wars,” therein lies politics defeat. Politics that is unable to dialogue to avoid war is a defeated, finished politics; it has lost its vocation to unity, to harmony.” Therefore, the Bishop of Rome pointed out, “dialogue is key in politics,” unity must always be sought.
Politics “isn’t an arrival, it’s a journey, it’s an initiation of processes” (. . . ) “What is important is to attain that unity, because unity is superior to conflict,” he stressed.
University of Sense
Last June 5, International Day of the Environment, the present Successor of Peter celebrated the creation of the University of Sense on the part of Scholas Occurrentes. At this event, prestigious academics of different cultures and religions gave their support to this initiative, handing to the Bishop of Rome, after several months of work, the Document that expresses the identity and mission of the University of Sense.
The members of this Commission are: Diane Moore, Professor of Harvard University; Stefania Travagnin, Researcher at the Faculty of History, Religion and Philosophy of London University; Souleymane Bahir Diagne, Senegalese philosopher and University Professor at Columbia University; Mpho Tshivhase, South African philosopher at the University of Pretoria, and Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Deputy Director General of Education. Accompanying the Pope in this event was, in addition to Scholas’ world Directors, Monsignor Vincenzo Zani, Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education.
Taking part together with the Ibero-Americans who presented to Pope Francis last weekend the Madrid Meeting, where they shared their pains and dreams as a generation, were the First Ladies of ALMA, Fabiola Yañez of Argentina, Michele Bolsonaro of Brazil; Cecilia More of Chile; Ana Garcia Hernandez of Honduras; Yazmin Colón de Vortizo of Panamá, and Raquel Arbaje de Abinader of the Dominican Republic, who reaffirmed their commitment to continue fostering the work of Scholas’ young people.
To conclude the meeting, Scholas educators from all over the world thanked the Holy Father for his testimony and trust and gave him a book entitled Qué te pá’, which expressed fully the result of the experiences lived by the young participants in the different programs of five Continents.
The Pope’s Concluding Message
Before leaving, His Holiness thanked all those present, as well as their “risking” and going “beyond,” without which Scholas cannot be understood. “Only by risking can gratuitousness be lived, only by risking does one reach the third level of the University of Sense, which is to celebrate.” “There is no celebration without risk.”
The Pontiff also expressed his appreciation for the “courage and bravery,” and the “path followed” to date, and he invited his listeners not to be afraid. “Be afraid of staying still and fossilized, the rest, go forward,” he joked, thanking the youngsters once again for having the courage to go “beyond the frontiers.”
Taking part also in the different connections and moments were Ambassadors to the Holy See, Maria Fernanda Silva, from Argentina; Chiara Poro from Australia and Carmen de Peña from Spain. Accompanying the meeting in person were Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop Primate of Mexico; and Cardinal Juan José Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona and President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference; Monsignor Lucio Ruiz, Secretary of the Dicastery for Communication; Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and the Italian Ministers of Education and Health, Patrizio Bianchi and Roberto Speranza, among other Civil and Ecclesiastical Authorities.
Scholas Occurrentes is an international organization of Pontifical Right present in 190 countries of five Continents, which, through its network, brings together half a million schools and educational networks.
Its mission is to achieve the integration of all pupils worldwide through technological, sport, and artistic proposals, which promote education from the culture of encounter.