On Wednesday, 20 April, Pope Francis met with members of the Global Researchers Advancing Catholic Education Project (g.r.a.c.e) at the Vatican. G.R.A.C.E is an international project that brings researchers and educators together to offer global knowledge and integral human development to Catholic schools. Partner institutions include Boston College in the United States, the University of Notre Dame in Australia, Saint Mary’s University Twickenham in the United Kingdom, and Mary Immaculate College Limerick in Ireland. The Holy Father set aside his prepared speech and completely improvised his discourse, during which he told G.R.A.C.E members that educating requires “walking alongside” students and guiding them as they learn from their mistakes. He also emphasized the importance of combining rhetoric with reality. The following is a translation of the Pope’s improvised address, which he delivered in Italian.
Thank you very much for visiting. I lived in Ireland, in Dublin, in Milltown Park, to study English, but I forgot, excuse me! I will speak in Italian. Thank you for your visit. I am please, especially after listening to you [referring to the group leader]. I understood almost everything, but you were going 100 an hour and at times I couldn’t understand! But I liked that vision of education — I’ll say it with my own words — in tension between risk and security. What you do is a beautiful thing. We must break that idea of education which holds that educating means filling one’s head with ideas. That’s the way we educate automatons, cerebral minds, not people. Educating is taking a risk in the tension between the mind, the heart and the hands: in harmony, to the point of thinking what I feel and do; feeling what I think and do; of doing what I feel and think. It’s a balance.
But we must possess Ariadne’s thread to get out of labyrinths... I think also about the labyrinth of life: the boy or girl who is growing, they don’t understand many things; what is Ariadne’s thread, which helps young people not get lost in the labyrinth? Walking together. One cannot educate without walking alongside the people being educated. It is beautiful when we come across educators who walk alongside boys and girls. And you [in the subtitle of the book you gave me] say something very beautiful: “When Rhetoric Meets Reality”. Educating is not saying purely rhetorical things; educating is making what is said meet reality. Girls, boys, they have a right to make mistakes, but the educator accompanies them along the journey to direct these mistakes, so that they don’t become dangerous. The true educator is not frightened by mistakes, no: he or she accompanies, takes one by the hand, listens, dialogues. [An educator] doesn’t get scared, and waits. This is the human education. As you can see, there is an abyss between the legacy of the ‘macrocephalous’ education and education itself, which is this carrying forward and growing, this helping to grow. I thank you for this human approach to education. And onward, courage!
The last thing to which you [speaking again to the group leader] referred: dialogue between young people and the elderly is important. This is very important. Even going over parents: not to rebel, but to search for the source. The roots, the roots. Because the tree, in order to grow, needs to have a tight relationship with the roots. Do not stay fixed at the roots, no, but in a relationship with the roots. There is a poet from my homeland who says something beautiful: “Everything the tree has produced comes from what it has underground”. Without roots, there is no moving forward. It is only through roots that we become people: not statues in a museum, like certain traditionalists, who are cold, stiff, rigid, who think that being prepared for life means living stuck to the roots. This relationship with one’s roots is necessary, but we also need to move forward. And this is the true tradition: taking from the past to move forward. Tradition is not static: it is dynamic, aimed at moving forward. There was a French theologian from the fifth century, a monk, who wondered, talking about this, how dogma could progress without ruining the inspiration of one’s own tradition, how it could grow without hiding from the past. And he said in Latin: “Ut anni scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate”: it progresses by being consolidated with the years, developing over time, sublimating with age. Consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate, this is tradition: we need to educate in tradition, but in order to grow.
Thank you, thank you very much for your work. Thank you, thank you. And now I will give you my blessing, you who come from the Green Ireland. [Blessing]