Pope Francis explains "And this is the original meaning of what we call "university", uni-versitas: when these realities began to arise in the Middle Ages they were born to make the different schools..." FULL TEXT



Dear brothers and sisters!

For the inauguration of the academic year of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, I wish to extend my warmest greetings to the entire university community, represented by the Magnificent Rector, Prof. Franco Anelli, by the Assistant General Ecclesiastical, HE Mons. Claudio Giuliodori, and by the General Manager, Paolo Nusiner.

I also address my greetings to HE Mons. Mario Delpini, Archbishop of Milan and President of the Toniolo Institute, and to the President of the European Commission, Mrs Ursula von der Leyen.

What you are experiencing is a special day, because it celebrates an important anniversary: ​​a hundred years ago, Father Agostino Gemelli and his collaborators gave birth to that great cultural institution that is your University. 


I would like to gather my reflection around three words: fire , hope and service . Three words which - I believe - may represent a bit of your mystique [spirituality].

The first is an image: the fire , that is, the torch that has been passed on from generation to generation in your University. Anniversaries are suitable times to remember the past. And looking at the hundred years of life of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, we recognize an important educational tradition, brought to life thanks to the dedication of hundreds of men and women and witnessed by thousands of graduates. Education is one of the most effective ways to humanize the world and history, [1]and I believe that your University holds this teaching in its mandate. This is possible thanks to the enhancement - renewed through the generations - of the cultural and spiritual heritage that constitutes its identity. A clear and unchanged identity, which however does not reject, rather respects and welcomes different sensitivities, in the awareness that it is from a frank and respectful comparison with the other that the human condition is brought to flourish. As the ancients had already understood: to educate is not to fill vases but to light firesThe Catholic University guards this fire and therefore can transmit it because the only way to do it is "by contact", that is, through personal and community witness. Before even transmitting what you know, you light the fire by sharing what you are. This contact takes place thanks to the encounter, to the fact of standing side by side and doing something together. And this is the original meaning of what we call "university", uni-versitas: when these realities began to arise in the Middle Ages they were born to make the different schools converge "towards" a single place. Many that converge "towards one", a place, a time, a spirit. In your case, a story illuminated by Faith, which restores unity to the universe of knowledge and weaves the unity of the people who contribute to its growth: professors, employees, students. And this is the deepest meaning of the word "tradition". As Mahler said: “It is not the custody of the ashes of the past, but the safeguarding of the future”.

The second word is hope . Today, this idea of ​​education is challenged by an individualistic culture, which exalts the self in opposition to us, promotes indifference - the culture of indifference is ugly! -, diminishes the value of solidarity and sets in motion the culture of waste. Those who educate, in fact, look to the future with confidence, and carry out an action - the educational one - which involves various actors of society, in such a way as to offer students an integral formation ., fruit of the experiences and sensitivities of many. This is in particular the mission of the teachers, who are the creative custodians of the tradition, which is a treasure. Because, according to Gustav Mahler's image - as I said - it is not guarding the ashes but guarding the fire. That is, to carry on the image of the tree: the roots give life to the tree and, as the poet said, everything that the tree has in bloom comes from what is buried. This harmony between root and growth.

Education is first and foremost a relationship: a relationship between teacher and student, and then also between students. A community of people open to reality, to the transcendent Other and to others, open to know, to discover, to ask questions and seek together answers, answers of today. Don't be afraid to ask questions to find answers. A community open to the world without fear. Fear is bad! This is hope: betting on the future by winning the natural thrust that arises from the many fears that risk immobilizing us, fixing us and closing us in an eternal and illusory present. The openness and acceptance of the other is therefore particularly important, because it fosters a bond of solidarity between the generations and fights the individualistic tendencies present in our culture. And above all it builds, starting from the university classrooms,

In this perspective, I have promoted a global educational pact , to sensitize everyone to listening to the great questions of meaning of our time, starting with those of the new generations in the face of social injustices, violations of rights, forced migration. The university cannot remain deaf to these complaints. I am happy that you have accepted this invitation to a renewed season of educational commitment. Your international cooperation projects, aimed at different populations of the planet, the many financial aid that each year you provide to students in need, your attention to the least and to the sick are testimony to a concrete commitment. I encourage you to continue on this path!

The world, especially today, is totally interdependent; this condition requires an unprecedented effort, because this epochal change has made the interpretative frameworks of the past obsolete, which are no longer useful for understanding the present. It is a question of designing new thinking models, to define solutions to the urgencies we are called to face: from environmental to economic, from social to demographic. We cannot go on with the category of enlightenment. It takes a new, creative thought. The Catholic University of the Sacred Heart can represent a privileged place for the advanced development of this cultural elaboration. And here we return to the teacher-student relationship - which is important! -, which is a dynamic relationship, in tension between present and future: together you are called to think,

And I address you students in a particular way now. In these confused times, made even more complex by the pandemic, I repeat to you: do not allow yourselves to be robbed of hope!And don't let yourself be infected by the virus of individualism. This is bad, and it hurts. The university is the right place to develop antibodies against this virus: the university opens the mind to reality and diversity; there you can put your talents into play and make them available to everyone. As students of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, you belong to a community of studies with solid roots, from which you can draw on for your training and to renew, every day, the enthusiasm to move forward and assume your responsibility in society. Do not become a traditionalist of the roots, no, take from the root to grow, to move forward, to stake your life on it. This is the horizon that I propose to you in this centenary.

And so we come to the third and final word: service . In reality, this word could be the first, because a new institution always begins with founders who put their lives at the service of others. And over the course of its hundred years, the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart has shown on several occasions that it is faithfully at serviceof the Church and of society. This is demonstrated by the commitment of its professors in the daily research activity and, for not a few of them, also in positions of responsibility within Italian and international institutions. Witness the work of the staff, who offer dedication and intelligence in order to make the University work possible. I address a thought of gratitude to each of you who are part of this great team; here too the logic is that of uni-versitas:all together, all "towards", all together, each in his specific role, but all together, converging towards a shared horizon. Without the daily work of each of you, this common project would be poorer, it would lack something, as if in an orchestra the timbre and tonality of some apparently less important instruments were missing.

Dear brothers and sisters - and I turn to everyone again - you are, allow me the example, a great orchestra, where the whole is essential, which is made if each one gives his best in harmony with the others. May the spirit of service always remain the distinctive feature of your entire university community, which is the only way to be faithful to the Gospel that inspires it. The Lord Jesus Christ, despite being the Logos, the divine Wisdom, chose the foolishness of serving to the point of total self-denial: the wisdom of the Cross. Thus he testified to the truth of God's love and He, the King, taught us that to serve is to reignMay anyone who studies and works in your University breathe this spirit, learn this style, to live it in the complex reality of the contemporary world. Go ahead, look to the horizon, with courage in your educational mission. Two words that will help us a lot: courage and patience. Enduring contradictions, wrong things, patience, and the rush of courage go together. They go together. You interpret this courage and this patience as a passionate service to the whole of society; also to the Church, but to the whole of society. The Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you. And please don't forget to pray for me. Thank you.


[1] Video message on the occasion of the meeting promoted and organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education: “ Global compact on education. Together to look beyond "  (October 15, 2020).

FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va - Image Screenshot - Translation from Italian