«The central moment of Francis’s visit to Loppianowas a moment of intense dialogue, which gave him the opportunity to answer some of the inhabitants’ questions. The second question revolved specifically around education, an important aspect of the international centre of the Focolare Movement, dubbed ‘city-school’ by Chiara Lubich. The inhabitants of Loppiano know that every activity teaches them something: from working in the fields to having a job at a company or at an artist’s workshop; everyone experiences that every relationship with others and with Creation can help them grow as “new women and men following the example of Jesus’ humanity”. That is the daily mission of the eleven training centres headquartered in Loppiano, each designed for a specific age range and life choice.
The study programmes offered by Sophia have a unique character, because the University Institute was erected by the Holy See and it is designed to welcome young people from all walks of life and a variety of cultural backgrounds. Most of them, when they arrive, are not even familiar with the charisma of unity that has inspired Sophia, they are simply attracted by the opportunity to enrol in a curriculum that is innovative in both its method and its contents.
The everyday life in the international centre then allows people to come together in an atmosphere of reciprocity, where everyone benefits from the others’ experiences. That is why Javier Baquero from Colombia, who studies Political Science at Sophia, was able to speak on behalf of all those involved in a formative experience at Loppiano, and not just his fellow students. Javier asked Pope Francis to give his contribution to the development of those programmes. His answer touched upon three aspects in particular:
- A SOLID AND NECESSARY BASIS: “listening to and exchanging gifts with one another”. A training programme can gain new vigour if it is inspired by the “creative power of love” and “open to the suggestions of the Holy Spirit and of history”, “at the service of all, with its gaze on to the whole of humanity, starting from those who live in the peripheries of existence”. That is the school of the People of God who do not look for guides or teachers among men, but only have one guide and teacher.
- A BENEFICIAL METHOD: proximity and dialogue. To go and meet others, to become the other’s ‘neighbour’, learning from the work of God who, through Jesus, came closer to us. Proximity is the key word of the ‘education covenant’ on which every training programme is based, but what is needed today is one more step forward to connect the numerous programmes that accompany the human and spiritual growth of those who want to live the culture of unity into one comprehensive learning programme.
- .. THE THREE LANGUAGES: talking about school, one must not forget practice! Francis invited everyone to practise three languages: that of thehead, that of theheart andthat of thehands. “We need to teach people to think well, not just to learn concepts, but to think well; to feel well; to do well. So that those three languages are interconnected: so that you think what you feel and do, you feel what you think and do, and you do what you think and feel, in unity. That is education”.
As a sign of encouragement to the audience, the Pope highlighted the importance of having so many training centres and even a university in Loppiano. He emphasised this by repeating it twice: “It’s a great richness!”, and by pointing out that the Lionello Bonfanti Business Park, a centre for the diffusion of civil economy and the economy of communion, and the Sophia University Institute are already making a positive difference in the effort of combining mind, heart and hands.
Sophia, which, “starting from its founding vision, reflects the lines I traced in the recent ApostolicConstitution Veritatis Gaudium”, needs to continue its work and “offer a competent and prophetic contribution” to “a vision of our planet as one nation, of humanity as one people made up of many peoples sharing a common home”.