Sunday, January 15, 2006

Universal education for India's Catholics ...

(Via Zenit)

NEW DELHI, India, JAN. 13, 2006 ( The Catholic Council of India is determined to ensure education for all Catholic children in the country by 2009.

The decision was made at the eighth general meeting of the council held at the Marian shrine at Vailankanni, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, on the topic "Catholic Education and the Church's Concern for the Marginalized."

Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, president of the Indian episcopate, addressed the participants, and spoke of the Church's concern for the marginalized and the duty of all Catholics to promote education among the poor, reported ICNS, the Indian episcopate's news service.

The council, which represents all sectors of the Church in India, states in its document that the "Catholic Church has always recognized the importance of education in its mission," and that, as "mother and teacher," she "has always considered it her privileged obligation to provide her children, especially the poor and the marginalized, an education by virtue of which their whole lives may be inspired by the spirit of Jesus Christ."

It adds that the "large number of institutions run by the Church" has formed "men and women" and that the "quality" of education the Church offers "attracts men and women of all faiths and all sections of society, to develop not only their intellectual faculties but also their spiritual and human qualities."


However, the CCI reaffirmed "the need to direct the attention of the mission of the Church, in all urgency, to the poor and the marginalized."

It also stresses the importance that Catholic educational institutions "make accessible the educational facilities to every child" and that faith formation of Catholic children "be a special concern" in these schools.

"A certain percentage of seats will be reserved for the poor and marginalized Catholic students in our institutions of higher learning and professional colleges," it specifies.

The council's aim is that "all Catholic children of school going age be in schools" by the year 2009. About 1.6% of India's 1.08 billion inhabitants are Catholics.

Quite admirable. Especially for someone who was a product of the much lauded "convent education" system in India (I went to Jesuit schools from 5th grade on.) However, I hope this (very legitimate) concern for the poor and marginalized not take the turn that it did with the Jesuits and my school in Bombay (Edmund Campion school), where they pulled out since they felt they were serving only the "elites" In the years that followed this once respected institution was reduced to a sorry mess, and after several entreaties, and the intervention of the Archbishops, the Jesuits returned to the helm.

I hope that the Jesuits (and by extension, the Church in India)realize that there is a very important role they play in transmitting these values -- the human and moral values, the spiritual values, the love for knowledge -- even to the much derided "elite." This is part of the evangelical mission of the Church, to bring the values of the Gospel to every stratum of society. The "elite" who were educated in institutions such as Campion go on to become the leaders of society. It would be a disservice to the nation, and to the Gospel, to back away from this because of some nice-sounding higher principle of serving the poor. The two should not be in opposition at all.

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