TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE 22nd NATIONAL CONGRESS
OF THE UNION OF CATHOLIC MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHERS
OF STATE AND PRIVATE SCHOOLS (UCIIM)
I am pleased to extend His Holiness' cordial greeting to you on the occasion of the 22nd National Congress of UCIIM. His Holiness extends this greeting with affection to the Central Ecclesiastical Advisor, to the collaborators of the National Presidency and to all who are taking part in the meeting on the theme: "School Education: new scenes, new responsibilities".
School education is a most appropriate field for an apostolate to which the Church looks with ever vigilant attention.
The Holy Father, Benedict XVI, also wished to recall this fact at his recent encounter with the representatives of the Italian Church in Verona this past 19 October. It is the duty of the entire People of God to pass on the Gospel message to the new generations, a leaven of authentic renewal in society.
This presupposes, however, that the person and children, adolescents and young people, be helped to attain full human and spiritual maturity.
A healthy realism, moreover, teaches that it is also necessary to accompany the human being throughout his or her life in the constant development of the various aspects of one's personality. It is this that makes education a fundamental issue for the Church: education for all, especially those confronted by desires and hopes, uncertainties and insecurities.
You, the members of UCIIM, seek to carry out this mission with the awareness of lay people enlightened by the Church's Magisterium.
In fact, Prof. Gesualdo Nosengo founded your Association in June 1944 precisely to contribute to the Church's task of formation and education. He was driven by a strong passion for schools, in the conviction that the development of every nation and every people hinges on school and democracy.
Much headway has been made and many goals have been achieved since then, even if the challenges are still difficult and the rapid social changes require constant and serious updating.
Your educational work is marked by the constant quest to achieve a synthesis between the Divine Word that guides and saves, and human words that enlighten, instruct and help people in seeking to discover, and by discovering, to persevere in seeking further, as the great Bishop St Augustine taught.
It is your intention, moreover, to shed light on the importance of the process of personal development that involves one and all and that we may call a "self-education" process.
In this regard, what was written in one of the preparatory documents of the Congress appears particularly relevant: "Educating in schools means educating oneself to educate in a specific historical, social and institutional context, which definitely changes more quickly than the legislation that seeks to interpret and guide it".
Here, one of the pivots of the human and Christian experience is highlighted. Education sparks a dynamism that entails the direct involvement of the person and the "educating" community, whether family or school, or the ecclesial and civil communities.
His Holiness appreciates all that the Association has done and continues to do in this area, through its activity in the school context, since its foundation more than 60 years ago. In this way it encourages initiatives for the cultural, pedagogical and didactic updating of teachers, with special attention to their religious and spiritual growth and supporting every useful initiative that aims to educate young people.
The Holy Father encourages the Association to persevere on the path it has taken, facing the challenges of the modern age with foresight and courage.
As the theme of the Congress recalls, new scenarios call for new responsibilities. The new generations require, as never before at this time in history, a formation complemented by thought, accompanied by the elaboration of pastoral and educational policies able to respond to the expectations of the world of youth in the third millennium.
It is a question of communicating to the young an appreciation of the positive value of life, awakening within them the desire to spend their life at the service of the Good. And this requires the responsible contribution of all - teachers, parents, pastors and every person who truly has at heart the future of humankind.
As he expresses the hope that the Congress will serve the educators of UCIIM as a useful opportunity for discussion and growth, the Supreme Pontiff assures you of his remembrance in prayer. He asks you to follow the teachings of Jesus, rightly invoked by the sweet name of "Teacher", and he imparts a special Apostolic Blessing to all.
I willingly add my own cordial good wishes for the success of the Congress, and take this opportunity to offer my respectful greetings to you and to all the participants.