In his Message for the Launch of the Educational Pact, dated September 12, 2019, Pope Francis invited all those working in the field of education at different levels (academic, institutional, pastoral and social) to Rome on May 14, 2020, to work together to develop a global educational pact. The event was then postponed due to Covid-19. The pandemic has made the Holy Father’s appeal even more pressing; it is necessary to unite efforts for the common home, for education to be a creator of fraternity, peace and justice.
For this reason, on October 15, 2020, a virtual meeting took place, open to all and broadcast on Vatican Media’s YouTube channel, which included a video message from the pope and testimonies and international experiences aimed at looking ahead with creativity.
In the course of his pontificate Francis has repeatedly urged the need for such collaboration at the educational level for the maintenance of our “common home,” as, for example, in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Nos. 23 and 87), in the encyclical Laudato Si’ (Nos. 215 and 220), and in his speech of January 9, 2020, to the Diplomatic Corps at the Holy See: “All change, like the epochal change we are now experiencing, calls for a process of education and the creation of an educational village, capable of forming a network of open and human relationships. That village should put the human person at the center, investing creatively and responsibly in long-term projects that train individuals willing to offer themselves in service to the community. What is needed, then, is an educational vision that can encompass a broad range of life experiences and learning processes, in order to enable young people, individually and collectively, to develop their personalities.”
Education was also the basic theme chosen by the Italian episcopate for its pastoral focus in the decade 2010-2020.
Some dramatic signs of educational failure
The places that have always been decisive for education (in particular, the family, institutions and schools) are today deeply in crisis, not least because society is unenthusiastic about them and obsessively withdrawn into itself. Hence there is a serious and growing fracture of the generational pact between adults and young people. The pope has made explicit mention of the problematic situations in which parents find themselves, mostly abandoned to themselves and subject to an increasingly stressful rhythm of life, and also of the difficult task facing always underpaid teachers.
This fracture emerges dramatically in the demographic collapse of the West, and in particular of Italy, which for several years now has been among the lowest levels in the world. Statistics for the year 2019 show that in Italy the birth/death ratio is 67/100 (212,000 fewer people than the previous year; 10 years ago the ratio was 96/100). This is “the lowest level of natural turnover ever experienced by the country since 1918.” Turnover is becoming increasingly problematic.
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