11/04/2019, 18.10
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Pope calls on Catholic universities to overcome the legacy of the Enlightenment

Francis tells the International Federation of Catholic Universities that universities must meet  the "strong pressure felt in the various areas of socio-economic, political and cultural life", and train "not only qualified professionals in various disciplines, but also protagonists of the common good, creative and responsible leaders in social and civil life with a correct vision of humanity and the world.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met members of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), who are taking part in a forum in Rome on the New Frontiers for University leaders. The future of health and the University ecosystem.

In his address, the pontiff said that universities must “overcome the legacy of the Enlightenment”. Education is not only about filling heads with concepts, but requires coordinating the language of the mind, heart and hands in favour of a more human-oriented approach.

For the Holy Father, universities must respond to the “strong pressure felt in the various areas of socio-economic, political and cultural life", so as to prepare the new generations “to become not only qualified professionals in various disciplines, but also protagonists of the common good, creative and responsible leaders in social and civil life with a correct vision of humanity and the world. In this sense, universities today must ask themselves what contribution they can and must make to people’s full well-being and to solidary ecology.”

Indeed, in today's world, the development of technical sciences is destined to “increasingly" affect the physical and psychological welfare of human beings. But “An education reduced to its mere technical expression or to mere information becomes an alienation of education; to think that we can pass on knowledge by abstracting from its ethical dimension is tantamount to giving up on education.”

“It is necessary to overcome the legacy of the Enlightenment. Educating, in general, but particularly in universities, is not just filling the head with concepts. It takes three languages. It is necessary that the various languages ​​come into play – the language of the mind, the language of the heart and the language of the hands – so that one can think in harmony with what we feel and do, feel in harmony with what we think and do, and do it in harmony with what we feel and think. A general harmony [that is] not separated from the totality.”

“The connection between knowledge and purpose refers to the issue of intentionality and the role of the subject in every cognitive process. So, we come to a new episteme. To create a new episteme is a challenge. Traditional epistemology emphasised this by considering the impersonal character of every piece of knowledge as a condition of objectivity, an essential requisite of the universality and communicability of knowledge.

“Today, however, many authors stress that there are no totally impersonal experiences: the way of thinking, normative convictions, categories, creativity, and existential experiences of a subject represent a tacit but always present dimension of knowledge, an indispensable factor for the acceptance of scientific progress. We can’t imagine a new laboratory-based episteme; it doesn’t work, one centred on life does.”

Hence, Catholic universities have a "moral imperative" to work towards “a more united international academic community", with “its roots [sunk] more faithfully into the Christian context from which the universities originated.”

Lastly, with respect to the forum’s topic, training university leaders, Francis noted that “scientific and theoretical knowledge must be mixed with the sensitivity of the scholar and researcher so that the fruits of the study are not self-referentially acquired, only to assert one’s professional position, but are relationally and socially projected.

“Ultimately, just as every scientist and every person of culture has an obligation to serve more because they know more, so the university community, especially if Christian in inspiration, and the ecosystem of academic institutions must respond together to the same obligation.”

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