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Ramiro Pellitero,

Culture of meeting

In Sardinia Pope Francis met with the world of culture (cf. speech at the School of Theology, 22-IX-2013). He presented some "reflections" based on his experience as a man and as a pastor. And he has done so by taking his cue from the passage of the disciples of Emmaus. Accompanied and guided in their meeting with Jesus, those disciples went through three stages: disillusionment, resignation, hope. And in order to "bring them closer and find paths of hope", the Pope described the role of the University as very valuable.

Thu, 26 Sep 2013 09:46:00 +0000 Published in Religion Confidential

The two disciples were leaving Jerusalem, disillusioned by the death of Jesus. Today too, the Pope observes, "disillusionment" is spreading among us, not only because of the economic and financial crisis, but also because of the ecological, educational, moral and human crises. A crisis represents both danger and opportunity. And this can be considered in each of its aspects.

How to react? Those disciples reacted with "resignation", with a pessimism that made them blind to any possibility of intervening effectively to improve things. Rather, they tried to flee from reality. We too, the Pope continues, can be tempted to escape from our world and its historical dynamics. Even, as happened in the second century after Christ, an "apocalyptic" mentality spread.

"This pessimistic conception of human freedom and of historical processes leads to a kind of paralysis of the intelligence and the will. Disillusionment also leads to a kind of flight, to seek 'islands' or moments of respite." And he evokes Pilate's attitude, which has remained in our everyday language: washing one's hands. "A behavior that seems 'pragmatic' - practical - but in fact ignores the cry for justice, humanity and social responsibility and leads to individualism, hypocrisy, if not a kind of cynicism."

These pessimistic temptations to escape, not to think, not to make an effort, of comfort, cowardice and selfishness lead to the attitude of disillusionment.

Therefore, the Pope believes, we cannot resign ourselves, nor let our hope be obscured, flee from reality, wash our hands of it and close in on ourselves. "The historical moment in which we live pushes us to seek and find paths of hope that open up new horizons for our society".

It is here where the role of the University shines: "The university as a place of elaboration and transmission of knowledge, of training for 'wisdom' in the deepest sense of the term, of Education integral of the person".

Pope Francis highlights three aspects of the university task: the place of discernment, the central role of dialogue and meeting, and the Education of solidarity.

1. As a place of discernment, the University must teach how to "read reality, looking at it head on"; because "ideological or partial readings are useless, they only feed illusion - in the sense of mirage - and disillusionment". Instead, it is a matter of "reading reality, but also living this reality, without fear, without escapes and without catastrophism". For every crisis brings with it, along with suffering, the capacity to open up to a new horizon, to a renewal; it implies "the strength of hope".

This is also the case with this crisis, which is a "change of epoch". It puts us before discernment, that is, before the reading of reality that must be done with ethical criteria (and as Christians also with the criteria of faith). "Discernment is not blind, nor improvised; it is carried out on the basis of ethical and spiritual criteria, it implies questioning oneself about what is good, with reference letter to the values proper to a vision of man and of the world, a vision of the person in all his dimensions, above all in the transcendent spiritual one: the person can never be considered as 'human material'. This is perhaps the hidden proposal of functionalism".

The University, therefore, is the best place to make a reflective reading of reality, which leads to discern what is valuable and what is harmful for the person, for today's society and for those who come after, who may receive a valuable world or, on the contrary, an impoverished culture.

2. The university is also a place where the culture of "proximity" is developed, of closeness, the culture of meeting, and to oppose isolation or closing oneself in one's own interests, which leads rather to a "disencounter".

"The university is a privileged place where this culture of dialogue is promoted, taught and lived, which does not indiscriminately level out differences and pluralisms-one of the risks of globalization is this. And it does not even exaggerate them by turning them into reasons for disagreement, but opens up to constructive confrontation". In other words: "This means understanding and valuing the riches of the other, considering him not with indifference or fear, but as a factor of growth". And this, adds the Pope, particularly in the Schools of Theology, must be opened to the horizons of transcendence, to meeting with Christ and to deepen the relationship with Him.

3. Finally, the University is also a place of Education for solidarity, a word that belongs both to the Christian vocabulary and to the common vocabulary of our time, and which is a fundamental element for the renewal of our society.

The meeting of Jesus with the disciples of Emmaus leads them to share the bread with him, as a sign of the Eucharist. And Pope Francis insists - as he has been doing frequently - on solidarity: "There is no future for any country, for any society, for our world, if we do not all know how to be more in solidarity. Solidarity, therefore, as a way of making history, as a vital sphere in which conflicts, tensions and even opposites reach a harmony that generates life".

From the Christian point of view -the Pope concludes-, "faith itself gives a solid hope that pushes us to discern reality, to live closeness and solidarity, because God himself has entered our history, becoming man in Jesus, has immersed himself in our weakness, becoming close to everyone, showing concrete solidarity, especially to the poorest and neediest, opening for us an infinite and sure horizon of hope".

Therefore, no to disillusionment and resignation. Yes to hope. And the University must know how to be manager of the Education for discernment, dialogue and meeting, solidarity. Only in this way can it reach the Education for wisdom or, what is the same, the integral Education of persons.