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The future of society young people formed in the faith

· Benedict XVI to Bishops of the United States on their visit ‘ad limina Apostolorum’ ·

The contribution which Catholic educational institutions can offer to the building of a “society ever more solidly grounded in an authentic humanism” was a central point in the Pope's Address to a group of Bishops from the United States, whom he received in Audience on Saturday morning, 5 May, on the occasion of their visit ad limina Apostolorum .

In his Discourse, dedicated entirely to the “question of religious education and the faith formation of the next generation of Catholics” in the United Sates, Benedict XVI highlighted above all the necessity to “preserve the great patrimony” of America’s Catholic elementary and high schools, ensuring that access to them “remains within the reach of all families, whatever their financial status”. According to the Pontiff, these institutions are not only “an essential resource for the new evangelization” but they also offer a “significant contribution that they make to American society as a whole”. This contribution, he noted, “ought to be better appreciated and more generously supported”.

The Pope also called to mind the necessity for these institutions to maintain a strong Catholic identity, “in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel”. This is an area in which, he affirmed, “much remains to be done”. On this point he warned against instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and “the Church’s pastoral leadership”: such discord “harms the Church’s witness” and can easily be exploited “to compromise her authority and her freedom”.

In any case, for Benedict XVI the education of young people in the faith represents “the most urgent internal challenge” facing the Catholic community in the U.S. And on this point, the Pope called us to bear in mind the authentic task of educating in the faith is that of “shaping hearts” and not merely of “passing on knowledge”; it is also that of encouraging students to “to articulate a vision of the harmony of faith and reason capable of guiding a life-long pursuit of knowledge and virtue”. It is not enough, therefore, to ensure the mere teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplain in an institution: there is a need, on the part of teachers, for an authentic “intellectual passion” and for commitment to integrating faith and life into an “essential unity”

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