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orientations and ways of thinking] has turned into New Age Catholicity. We need to find a new – more attractive – Catholicity in the Church, especially at a time when Europe is so unsure of its roots that it fails to include them in its new constitution. We need to work against the intercultural model of religious fragmentation by teaching responsible interculturality that affirms the individual’s identity while at the same time offering hospitality to the other.

It goes without saying that education is an integral part of the Christian cultural mission. The immense patrimony of monastic institutions committed to human, cultural and professional formation throughout Europe testifies to this fact. For today’s society John Paul II has called this record in education an authentic “diaconate of truth”, equally as important as the social (caritas) diaconate and closely related to it. Service to education is a manifestation of the Church’s commitment to serving society by helping it to interpret the ‘signs of the times’. This diaconate must become a thread that is woven throughout the fabric of intercultural education.

This contribution by Christians to the world of education, referred to in the recent Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Europa (June, 28 , 2003, 59), as “service to thought”, is an indispensable contribution to society in general and contains within itself the necessary tools for intercultural education.

2. The Church’s Assets

A Biblical example of intercultural formation can be found in Jesus’ discourse to the Samaritan, not aimed at religious conversion, but rather at the development of a personal identity alive in “a spirit of love and truth” (Jn 4:5-26). In this sense the Church of the Second Vatican Council considers itself a community of dialogue with other cultures and religions (Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, 67): “The Church Becomes a Community of Dialogue, a fellow pilgrim of humanity in its quest to fully realize its capabilities. On the one hand it is well to note the prophetic foresight of the Bible in predicting the culmination of human history in a multi-cultural, global city, the celestial Jerusalem, the fruit of human effort and a free gift of God at the same time (Ap. 21); on the other, the revolutionary thought of John Paul II, which has received little comment so far, in his Encyclical Redemptor hominis (March 4, 1979, 11) where he states that “This self-awareness by the Church is formed ‘in dialogue’; and before this dialogue becomes a conversation, attention must be directed to ‘the other’, that is to say the person with whom we wish to speak.”. What other social institution would allow its identity to be radically defined in terms of service to dialogue?

Since the Church is the oldest institution of intercultural mediation, the famous principle of St Anselmo of Canterbury (1033-1109), fides quaerens intellectum, for centuries the basis of all its catechetical-educational activity, must today be flanked by the expression fides quaerens dialogum, with all the consequences this implies regarding its daily activity. Intercultural formation is now an integral part of Christian identity and the new missionarity that involves the entire Christian community. The relationship of the Church to other religions and cultures is dictated by two types of respect that are incorporated into its educational programs: “Respect for the human being in his search for answers to life’s most profound questions and respect for the

The challenges in education. Recovering the past, promises, commitments

Italian Episcopal Conference, European Symposium, Roma 1-4 July 2004

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