Last Thursday, Pope Francis greeted staff and students of Rome’s Catholic LUMSA University as the institute celebrates 80 years from its foundation, and urges them to pursue integral education in a fragmented world full of contradictions.
The LUMSA (Libera Università degli Studi Maria Ss. Assunta di Roma), Rome’s second oldest University, was founded by the Venerable Luigia Tincani, who dedicated her life to creating initiatives for education and the apostolate in schools, with the help of Pope Pius XII.
Greeting teachers, students and staff in the Vatican, Pope Francis recalled the fact that the university was founded in 1939 in response to a need that is still urgent today: training educators. He underscored the need to place that mission in the context of the change of epoch that we are currently experiencing and noted that the very term, "university", designates a community, but also an idea of convergence of knowledge, in the search to provide truth and meaning to dialogue between all men and women in the world.
Nurturing a culture of encounter and solidarity
He said it is a high task to be aware and worthy of, and he invited those present to commit themselves to projects of sharing and service, “in order to make our city of Rome grow in the sense of belonging to a common homeland”. “Working with projects, even small ones, that encourage encounter and solidarity, we can regain a sense of trust in life together,” he said. Pope Francis noted that a university gives formation “which starts from the person and reaches the person” and said that in the case of a Catholic university, “where the adjective Catholic does not introduce a distinction, but rather a surplus of exemplariness.”
He reflected on four points, indicating the responsibilities and aims of a Catholic institute of higher learning.
First he highlighted the need for community saying that “The university community always works for the future, but does so with a strong awareness of its roots and a realistic perception of the present”.
Second, he spoke of the institution’s missionary responsibility before the world saying that the formation it offers must include curricular knowledge but also space for the integral formation of the person.
Thirdly he stressed a “social responsibility” saying that the university is called to activate virtuous circuits of integral development with the living forces of society.
“We need the courage to get involved. Open our offices - in Palermo, Taranto, and Rome - to the old and new realities of poverty,” he said.
In his fourth and final point, Pope Francis said there is an inter-university responsibility and he noted that Europe, that has been the cradle of universities, must retrieve its meaning by continuing to work in the university system at all levels and in particular with Catholic universities so that a fruitful climate of cooperation, exchange and mutual help may be created.
The Pope concluded his address encouraging students, teachers, and leaders of the university community to open their hearts and minds, and to never be content with an “apparently hegemonic thinking” in a world in which diversity is conflict.
“I recall,” he said, “the motto of the University: In fide et humanitate. That et means integral education, in a globalized and fragmented world, full of contradictions, which requires so much work together. A serious, creative, artisanal work, that passes through the mind, the heart, and the hands”.