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Pope Francis says educators must ‘beware of ideological colonization’ in order to grow with their students

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Pope Francis speaks to members of the World Union of Catholic Teachers during an audience at the Vatican Nov. 12, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — Educators must always adapt, remain empathetic and grow with their students, Pope Francis told Catholic teachers.

However, they must “beware of ideological colonization,” he said in a speech Nov. 12 to members of the World Union of Catholic Teachers and those taking part in its general assembly in Rome.

“It is one thing to follow the culture of the moment, to speak the language of the moment, but it is another thing to allow yourself to be colonized ideologically,” he said.

“Please, be careful to form teachers in a way that enables them to discern a novelty that helps them to grow and an ideology, an ideological colonization,” the pope said. “Today, ideological colonization is destroying the human personality and it can be disastrous when it is applied in education.”

Teachers work with human beings, who, when they are young, “change from year to year, and sometimes from month to month. Moreover, the young people of one generation differ from those of the next,” he said.

Pope Francis gives his blessing to members of the World Union of Catholic Teachers at the end of an audience at the Vatican Nov. 12, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Therefore, he said, educators “must continually reassess their own motivations and their methods. They cannot be rigid. Rigidity destroys education.”

Each year a teacher must start anew with new classes and students, and they must “renew their capacity for empathy and communication,” he said.

As a network that aims to encourage and motivate teachers “to be fully aware of their important mission as educators and witnesses of the faith,” Pope Francis said, the World Union of Catholic Teachers is there to help teachers “maintain their desire to grow together with their students, to find the most effective ways of transmitting the joy of learning and the desire for truth, by employing language and cultural forms suited to the young people of today.”

But, he said, teachers must find the right balance in using ‘language suited to today’s cultural forms” and avoiding “ideological colonization.”

“The presence of Christian educators in school communities is vitally important,” he said.

They must be “capable of establishing genuine relationships with students and understanding their deepest needs, questions, fears and dreams,” he said, but also “capable of testifying — above all by their lives but also by their words — that the Christian faith embraces all of human experience, that it brings light and truth to every area of existence, without excluding anything, without clipping the wings of young people’s dreams, without impoverishing their aspirations.”

The church has long believed that the goal of education is not only about teaching concepts “but the integral formation of each human person in all his or her dimensions,” he said.

Teaching is a great responsibility, the pope said, and is a great opportunity to guide young people “with wisdom and respect, along the paths of the world and of life, helping to open their minds to the true, the beautiful and the good.”