Remarks of Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome
Question and Answer Session with the Priests of Rome
February 26, 2009
3. Don Giuseppe Forlai, vicar at the parish of St. John Chrysostom:
Holy Father . . . the education emergency, of which Your Holiness has spoken authoritatively, is also, as we all know, an emergency in educators, and I think, particularly in two aspects.
First of all, one must look more closely at the continuity of the presence of educator-priests. A young person cannot develop 'a pact for growth' with someone who will be gone in 2-3 years, if only because he may already be involved emotionally in managing his relations with parents who leave home, or new partners for their mother or father, let alone teachers who change every year. To educate them, one must stay in place. So the first necessity, I think, is that of a certain stability-in-place of the educator priest.
The second aspect: I think the fundamental stake of ministering to the young is played on the cultural front. Culture understood as emotive-relational competence and mastery of the words that express concepts.
A young person without such a culture can become tomorrow's poor man, a person in danger of emotional failure and of shipwreck in the world of labor. A youth without such a culture risks remaining a non-believer, or worse, a faithless but 'observant' parishioner, because his incompetence in relationships deforms his relation to God, and his ignorance of words blocks him from understanding the excellence of the Gospel.
It is not enough that young people can physically fill up spaces in our oratories (religious communities) where they can spend their free time. I would like the oratory to become a place where relational competency is learned and developed, and where the young person can find someone who listens to him as well as get academic help. It should be a place that does not become a constant refuge for those who have no desire to study or be committed, but rather, a community of persons who can formulate the right questions to open up a sense of religion and where they can receive the great charity of being helped to think. And this should open up serious reflection on collaboration among oratories and religious instructors.
Holiness, give us an authoritative word on these two aspects of the education emergency: (1) the necessary stability of operators and (2) the urgency of having educator priests who are culturally capable. Thank you.
. . . Certainly, an oratory in which people only play games or take refreshments would be absolutely superfluous. The sense of an oratory should really be that of the cultural, human and Christian formation of a young person to a mature personality. We are absolutely in agreement on this.
It seems to me that today, there is a cultural poverty in which many things are known, but without heart, without an interior link, because it lacks a common vision of the world. Therefore, a cultural solution inspired by the faith of the Church, by knowledge of God, is absolutely necessary.
I would say that this is the true function of an oratory: that in it, one will not only find possibilities to do with free time, but above all, for integral human formation which makes the personality complete. Of course, the priest as educator needs to be well-formed himself and connected to the culture of today, but rich in culture, so he can help young people enter a culture that is inspired by faith.
I would add, naturally, that ultimately, the point of orientation for every culture is God, God who is present in Christ. We see that today there are people with so much knowledge, but without an interior orientation. And that is why science can be dangerous for man, because without a more profound ethical orientation, it leaves man to arbitrariness, without the necessary orientations to truly become a man.
So in this sense, the heart of every cultural formation, which is so necessary, should be, without a doubt, the faith: to know the face of God which has shown itself to us in Christ and thus have a point of orientation for every other culture, which would otherwise become disoriented and disorienting.
A culture without personal knowledge of God, and without knowing the face of God in Christ, is a culture which can be destructive because it does not have the necessary ethical elements. And so we all have the mission of cultural formation that is profoundly human, which is open to all the richness of the various cultures in our time, but also gives the criterion, the discernment to decide what is true culture and what could become anti-culture. . . .