At 2:00 a.m. on Friday, May 21 (5 p.m. on Thursday, local time in Rome), in connection with the Vatican headquarters of Scholas Occurrentes, it was held the official launch of the headquarters of this pontifical foundation in the country; promoted by Pope Francis, Scholas has been developing educational experiences around the world for several years now, focusing on sports, art and technology, and promoting the culture of encounter.
Oceania was the continent that still missed to be reached; with the official arrival of Scholas in Australia, specifically in Sydney, one of the dreams pursued by the Scholas community and by Pope Francis himself has been fulfilled.
Scholas arrives in Australia thanks to the support of the Australian Catholic University, AUC; for this special event, a lively group of students attended online together with the Vice Chancellor and President of the AUC, Prof. Zlatko Skrbis; the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy of the same university, Prof. Dermot Nestor, and Jacqui Rémond, animator for Laudato Si’ activities within the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy.
From the Vatican, the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Chiara Porro, presented Pope Francis with a T-shirt with the Scholas logo and the Australian flag, which was signed by the Pontiff and will soon be given to the new Scholas community in Australia, when the foundation’s activities begin.
The T-shirt will be worn during the events being held this week, May 16-25, on the occasion of Laudato Week at AUC, an academic week dedicated to reflecting on environmental challenges in light of the Encyclical Laudato Si’.
During the ceremony, former ACU student Theresa Ardler offered a traditional welcome to Pope Francis and Scholas, while ACU students Deanna Uremovic, Lachlan Sibir and Ayman Hill presented mounds of earth from each of ACU’s eight Australian campuses.
With this gesture, Australia joined in the event’s slogan: “A well to keep on being born,” symbolizing a space where seeds grow, a gesture that, since Scholas’ origin in Argentina in 2001, has sought to signify emergence in the midst of a difficult social environment, and to signal the prospects of renewed courage and hope. Clare Stevenson, a student of the Loreto Normanhurst Boarding School and a member of the Wiradjuri aboriginal community, also dedicated a few words about her hope for the future of this project to the Holy Father.
His Holiness, from Rome, took the opportunity to listen to the university students attending the broadcast at the ACU campus in northern Sydney, and offered them encouragement, inspiration and promise for the future.
Among Scholas’ first actions in Australia are the development of programs such as Citizenship, the formation of a pioneering team of volunteers, and Laudato Si’ activities focused on care for the Common Home.
“We must never lose sight of our role to safeguard creation and pass it on to future generations. Through this agreement ACU plans to offer experiences and education for academics and practitioners to share knowledge and wisdom about our relationship with God’s ongoing work of creation– in our context this includes ‘salt-water country’ that connects us in our region of Oceania. We hope to achieve and enhance this through understanding the traditional ways people have cared for Oceania and how integral ecological research and practice can create pathways for greater protection of our island homes throughout the region.
“Joining with Scholas enables education and research pathways at ACU that are a direct response to Pope Francis’ call for ‘Universities of Meaning’ that respond to the health, social, cultural and ecological crises of today.”
The partnership between ACU and SCHOLAS commits to foster education and promotes collaboration amongst the university’s students on issues related to citizen awareness and politics, value cooperation and solidarity.
The collaboration will include training and advice, research, technology transfers, consulting, programming, technical assistance projects, and internships. It will focus on improving education and achieving educational inclusion for underprivileged sectors through art, sports and technology.