By Vatican News reporter
In his address to university rectors in Italy’s Lazio region, Pope Francis stressed the importance of these places of learning “at this particular historical moment”, saying they are entrusted with “a task of great responsibility “.
He told those gathered that the pandemic years, war in Europe, the global environmental problem and growing inequality are “challenging us in an unprecedented and accelerated way”.
“We must tell ourselves the truth: we are in crisis”, declared the pope in improvised remarks.
But he added that being in crisis can be a good thing because it “makes us grow”.
The danger, he stressed, “is when the crisis turns into conflict: the conflict closes in and destroys. But we have to learn to live with the crisis, as we are doing now, and to bring forward the young people who are [in]our universities, teaching them to live through the crisis and overcome it.
The pope stressed that young people “call us to our responsibilities”, which is why now is the time to invest massively in education.
Pope Francis also mentioned the signing of the document on human fraternity in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019, where it was agreed that “we care about an integral education that comes down to knowing oneself, one’s brother, of creation and of the Transcendent”.
“This, concretely, is the horizon of peace, which we rightly claim today and for which we pray intensely,” the Pope said.
Rethinking development models
He stressed that, of course, “there is a lot to be done, to ensure technological and scientific development, but also to guarantee human sustainability”.
“Big changes require us to rethink our economic, cultural and social models, to reclaim the central value of the human person,” he said.
In this regard, Pope Francis stressed that the service that the university can render is truly important and provides an environment to “rethink and adapt our models of development, bringing together the best intellectual and moral energies.”
In his address to university rectors, the Pope invited them to listen to their students and colleagues.
He also urged them to “listen to the social and institutional reality, that of the neighborhood and that of the world, because the university has no borders: knowledge, research, dialogue and confrontation can only overcome all barriers and being global”.
Place of reception
In another piece of advice, the Pope stressed the importance of forming young people in respect: “respect for oneself, respect for others, respect for creation and respect for the Creator”.
He called on universities to continue to reach out and welcome students, researchers and teachers “who are victims of persecution, wars and discrimination in various countries around the world”.
In off-the-cuff remarks to those gathered, the Pope warned against ideologies, saying they destroy creativity and the heart because they only make us see one way and close the universal panorama.
In conclusion, Pope Francis recalled the Jubilee of 2025 which has as its motto “Pilgrims of Hope”.
The pope expressed the hope that this event would offer the Church and universities a chance to work together towards common goals of life, good and fraternity.