In his message to participants in the four-day first African Congress of Catholic Education that kicked off on Thursday, December 7 in the economic capital city of Ivory Coast, Abidjan, the Holy Father “welcomes the African Education Pact”, which was presented to him in June, and goes on to advocate for the formation of the “whole person”.

“Africa is not immune to the crisis that the education system is going through today, which, as in many places, has become too selective and elitist …  aiming to form the intellect alone and not the whole person,” Pope Francis says in his message that the Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, signed, referencing the Holy Father’s address to the participants at the World Congress on Education on 21 November 2015.

Inspired by the Global Compact on Education, a pact meant to encourage positive change in education across the world, the African Education Pact seeks to educate young people based on both Christian values and traditional African culture. The aim is to recover and enhance interpersonal relationships with a communitarian dimension while strengthening the relationship with God.

In his December 7 message, Cardinal Parolin says, “His Holiness Pope Francis joins with you in heart and mind as you gather for the first African Catholic Education Congress to receive the African Education Pact. The Pope is pleased to know that this Educational Pact, which you presented to him on 1 June at the Vatican, was not the end of work undertaken for many years by the Fondation Internationale Religions et Sociétés, but that it marked a new stage in your commitment to promoting education in Africa.”

“His Holiness therefore welcomes the African Education Pact and hopes that it will increasingly become ‘a local reality, the result of reflections carried out on your own context and cultural resources, and that it should be attentive to the educational needs of the territory,’” the Vatican Secretary of State says, quoting Pope Francis’ address to the Delegation of Promoters of the African Education Pact on 1 June 2023. He goes on to explain the relevance of the African Education Pact to Catholic Education.

“By enriching itself with the African Educational Pact,” Pope Francis says, Catholic Education “will be able to offer a renewed, more open and inclusive formation, creating in young people a beautiful harmony between thought and action.”

Catholic Education that integrates the African Education Pact “will also be able to help shape a generation that draws on the socio-cultural values of the African continent, without giving in to the temptation of self-absorption, but also being capable of dialogue with other cultures and religions,” the Holy Father says.

He cautions against losing sight of the primary goal of Catholic Education in the process of fostering the African identity.

The primary goal of Catholic Education, Pope Francis says, is to offer to all the Christian message “that Jesus Christ is the meaning to life, to the cosmos and of history”.

“It is therefore important that everyone involved in Catholic education can be animated by the desire to communicate the Gospel through their lives, demonstrating consistency and adopting a pedagogical style that promotes the human and spiritual growth of students,” the Holy Father says.

Pope Francis calls on all persons involved in Catholic Education to prepare “young people not for the spirit of competition, which leads to selfishness, but for the spirit of community and solidarity.”

The Holy Father is keen on having young people, who are “capable of making positive and constructive choices, of being tomorrow’s decision-makers, committed to building a society that is ever more fraternal and at the service of all, with respect for the common good.”

“Indeed, quality education is a sign of hope and a solid foundation for the peaceful coexistence that Africa needs today,” the Holy Father says, and encourages participants in the four-day first African Congress of Catholic Education in “your desire to give new impetus to Catholic education in Africa”.

Pope Francis thanks the participants in the Congress “for the work you carry out every day with dedication (and) invokes upon you the graces of the Holy Spirit so that He may give you strength in your delicate mission in favour of the formation of young people in Africa.”

“His Holiness wholeheartedly bestows his Apostolic Blessing on you,” Cardinal Parolin says.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu