June 28, 2017
High-Level SDG Action Event on Education

Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
United Nations

High-Level SDG Action Event on Education
New York, 28 June 2017

Mr. President,

Thank you for this opportunity to engage with key actors from the education community and, furthermore, in discussions about universal access to quality and equitable education and about educating children and young people concerning the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Catholic Church has centuries of experience running institutions of education, open not only to Catholics but indeed to everyone, boys and girls, and especially founding schools throughout the world to educate the poor who otherwise would receive no education. In doing so, the Church strives to contribute to building a more united and peaceful world through the integral formation of successive generations of citizens and leaders.

Pope Francis spoke about the “right to education” when he addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2015. He said this principle “is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way,” he emphasized, “is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”[1]

In order to succeed in this arduous task, it is necessary to promote a culture of encounter, which involves an authentic atmosphere of respect, esteem, sincere listening and solidarity, without the need to blur or lessen one’s identity. Such a culture is capable of responding to the many forms of violence, poverty, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, waste and restrictions on freedom that the SDGs seek to remedy.

Within this context, educational institutions must seek to impart the “grammar of dialogue”[2] which, as Pope Francis recently affirmed, is the basis of encounter and the means of harmonizing cultural diversity. Forming new generations in this grammar of intellectual conversation, aimed at discovering the truth together, will leave students with the motivation to build bridges and find new answers to the many challenges of our time.

A few weeks ago, Pope Francis inaugurated the Vatican office of the Scholas Occurrentes Foundation, which he himself founded in 2013. The Foundation has a network of half a million schools in 190 countries, united in its core objective of promoting a “culture of encounter for peace through education, technology, art, and sport.” On that occasion, Pope Francis warned us of the danger of “elitism” in education, especially quality education. This danger is real and present, especially in places where public support for education is eroded and exclusive institutions are created by those who can afford to pay for education.[3] An “elitist education” would exacerbate inequalities, widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and perpetuate social and economic marginalization and the exclusion of those who have no access to education, in particular quality education.

Education sows hope. The human person cannot live without hope, a hope that education helps to generate, as students and teachers reach out in search of beauty, goodness, truth and communion with others for the common good. When educators listen to young people, and students to their professors, a more united and peaceful world that listens to the other with sensitivity and understanding becomes achievable.

Thank you, Mr. President.

1. Pope Francis, Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 25 September 2015.
2. Pope Francis, Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Catholic Education, 9 February 2017.
3. Pope Francis, Inauguration of the Vatican office of the Scholas Occurrentes, 9 June 2017.