In the framework of the III Symposium on Service-Learning, His Holiness sent a message in which he thanked « the initiative aimed at reflecting on the formation of the new generations. »
Pope Francis called for the encouragement « to rediscover fraternity and cooperation among the various academic communities, as the best way to face the challenges and urgencies of today ». He did so in the framework of the III Global Symposium Uniservitate that ended on October 28th at LUMSA University (Rome), More than 200 people attended the meeting in person and another 1,000 participated virtually.
In a telegram sent by the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on behalf of His Holiness and on the occasion of the III Global Symposium of Uniservitate, Pope Francis thanked « the initiative aimed at reflecting on the formation of the new generations ».
An encounter between the Pope and the new generations
More than 30 Catholic Institutions of Higher Education from 26 countries participated in the III Uniservitate Global Symposium, which was held under the theme « Service-Learning and Global Compact on Education: Educating for Fraternity in Higher Education », a multicultural event that promotes the formalization of innovative education with a focus on learning and solidarity service.
« It was very special to start the activities of Uniservitate by meeting in St. Peter’s Square [Vatican] and that Pope Francis received especially the students who, for the first time, participate in this type of Symposium », said Maria Rosa Tapia, coordinator of Uniservitate, about the meeting that His Holiness had with the students who won the Uniservitate Award 2022. This initiative recognizes the best experiences of service-learning developed within Catholic institutions, and in this first edition of the Awards, 200 experiences from around the world were documented.
Learning and service in the first person
During the III Symposium, the focus was on themes related to Dignity and Human Rights; Fraternity and Cooperation; Technology and Integral Ecology; Peace and Citizenship; Cultures and Religions, and the protagonists of the winning projects were able to tell their experiences in the first person.
For example, the project « Me-the Other » of the Ukrainian Catholic University, which seeks to promote human rights and the reduction of inequalities through inclusive theater, or the case « IngénieuxSud », carried out by the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), in which 18 university students (8 Belgians and 10 Congolese) carried out the study, design, and implementation of a project of afforestation with fruit trees, the installation of street lighting and a nursery in the center of the village of Dwale, Republic of Congo (Africa).
The promise of a better future
In line with the Holy Father’s words, the Prefect of the new Dicastery for Culture and Education, Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, praised the « initiative of dedicating this third Symposium to deepening the relationship between Service-Learning and the Global Compact on Education »
At the end of the second day, Tolentino expressed his gratitude to the students and said: « Listening to these projects of yours, I was very moved and also reconciled with the future. I can only give you my best wishes for your projects, for your testimonies and a big thank you for what you are today, the promise of a better future ».
Educating in fraternity
In recent years, Pope Francis has strongly insisted on the Church’s need to « go out to the periphery » and has repeatedly asked educational institutions to offer their students the opportunity to involve « head, hands, and heart » in addressing the challenges and problems presented by contemporary societies.
Across five continents, the Uniservitate programme involves 40,000 students, 1,800 teachers, and 2,500 community partners in the development of institutional learning-service programs.
« In these days [within the framework of the III Symposium] we have put into practice what educating in fraternity is all about. In this sense, what the Pope asks of us and what humanity asks of us is not theory, but that it can be put into practice. This is what all the institutions that integrate Uniservitate are working on », concluded María Nieves Tapia, founder and director of the Latin American Center of Learning and Solidarity Service (CLAYSS).
For Maria Cinque, director of the School of Higher Education EIS (Educate to Encounter and Solidarity) of LUMSA University, « this symposium was a great opportunity to learn about and deepen good practices that articulate academic education and solidarity action, thus favoring the integral formation of students as responsible citizens, critical and creative protagonists, with a vision of the future.”
For a more just and peaceful world
As a final activity, after an intense week of learning, reflection and exchange, the group of universities that are part of the Uniservitate global network was present in St. Peter’s Square to join in the celebration of the Angelus. There they made their way through the crowd, in an atmosphere of joy and communion, to be greeted by the Holy Father towards the end.