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Getting out differently does not mean getting out better

The recent message of Pope Francis has generated surprise and revolution for researchers and teachers from public and private universities in 25 countries (Albania, Germany, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Spain, the United States, The Philippines, Haiti, Italy, Iraq, Israel, Luxembourg, Mozambique, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Poland and Venezuela).

The World Meeting of teachers and researchers lasted for four hours starting at 4:00 p.m. of Rome and focused on the surprise generated by the recent announcement of Pope Francis on World Environment Day celebrating the creation of the University of Meaning.

The 270 participating teachers and researchers from 166 universities around the world were able to share the message that Pope Francis addressed to the Scholas community on June 5.

Dr. Hugo Juri, rector of the National University of Córdoba, reflected: “In the midst of this pandemic, Pope Francis gives this message that has a message within the message. He gives it on World Environment Day, in the midst of the crisis […] In this circumstance, he develops this tool which is the University of Meaning […] A University that will be global in values and local in needs. It is a University that is the dream of us rectors, who starts from scratch without the constraints of the cultural structures of a thousand years of University.”

In the same way, he highlighted the need to find mechanisms to make us understand within this new society that will suffer many more tensions: «interculturality is key to the global meeting and Scholas can also work on that.»

Afterwards, the participants worked in small groups. They wondered what proposals already existing in their own institutions can help to create a space in which this educational path can be developed. In this sense, they also analyzed how each of them can contribute in the generation of welcoming environments to create an experience in their own institution that can receive young people from other institutions, from other countries, from other religions, from other cultures, to promote this shared search for meaning, this education for life, this sharing of gratuitousness.

Italo Fiorin, President of EIS, University of Lumsa, Rome, explained: “Pope Francis, in the face of the great crisis caused by the pandemic, responds with a proposal that, once again, surprises us and leaves us in shock […] The health crisis reveals an even deeper crisis […]. Therefore, a cultural revolution is necessary and for this we need new tools. […] This is what Pope Francis
has entrusted to Scholas: giving life to the University of Meaning, which updates the method repeatedly called to feel with the heart, think with an open and available mind, act as a concrete action of love for reality, which turns beauty.”

Mauricio Dimant, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, shared the field research experience that was carried out among students from the University and youth from Neighborhood 31 where Scholas is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In this experience, the students of the Hebrew University did not go to teach but instead researched with the youth of the neighborhood a problem that they chose together.

This -he explains- «is to create knowledge, create culture.» Then, he reflected: “This University of Meaning could collaborate in expanding horizons, giving a different proportion to this type of experience. This possibility of researching in the field, with other populations, researching and not teaching them. It is a different experience when created together.”

Stephania from Palermo, Italy, explained: «Pope Francis comes to propose -in a moment of crisis- a revolutionary thing, that the heart can enter the old university to think of an education that has to do with a trip, that links dance with rational knowledge. A knowledge that harmonizes, that brings together art and philosophy, all in an interconnected way. The University of Meaning has to do with an inclusive journey that overcomes differences in gender, religion, and provenance. We imagine it as a relational meeting space.”

Then, the participants gathered for an idea-sharing session. All agreed on valuing an education that celebrates, on recovering the celebratory dimension of education. In this sense, dance and what it means as a human and universal value stood out.

On the end, José María del Corral, world director of Scholas, stated: “The Pope proposes a change of substance, not of form, not a new curriculum, but to return to the origin, to the roots. What we have been sharing today has to do with it, with recovering the roots, where young people look for their teachers to learn to live. Thank you, dear colleagues, because today we have gathered for free to continue dreaming and we have agreed that getting out differently does not mean getting out better. We should not seek a new normality but a learning that makes us better”.

In the final minutes, a teacher suggested playing music and saying goodbye dancing. This is how all the participants, from more than 155 cities in the world, stood up, danced, and sang, to start celebrating education themselves.

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