There is an accessible version of this website. You can click here to switch now or switch to it at any time by clicking Accessibility in the footer.

2016 NCEC CONFERENCE - Visiting Cardinal urges action on teaching the faith and protecting the environment


Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga – who was in Perth for the National Catholic Education Commission Conference – gave two key speeches, calling for faith values in education and action on climate change. Photo: Caroline Smith

By Caroline Smith

Visiting Honduran Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, – who was invited to Perth for the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) Conference, – has called for a return to Catholic values in the education system and spoken of the need for action on climate change at two separate events.

His Eminence Cardinal Maradiaga spoke at the conference on 22 June about the role of Catholic schools in evangelisation and the formation of students, and later gave the Mary Ward Social Justice Lecture at John XXIII College on the topic of environmentalism.

At his earlier presentation, the Cardinal, who is a Professor of Moral Theology, emphasised the historic role of the Church in the education of students, and the continuing role it should play in equipping them for the world.

“The education of the human person is an essential part of (the Church’s) mission,” he said.

“We can say that charity and culture are signs of the Church’s mission - within culture, the work of the Church in the field of education is as old as the Church itself.”

He stressed that, in the midst of growing individualism, rationalism and the gulf between rich and poor in society, Catholic schools should respond to this crisis by focusing on key values and models for living.

“The Church needs to respond to the real challenge of education… and it must be ready once again to make its contribution to the formation of the human person,” Cardinal Maradiaga said.

“The Catholic school should not only be about the teaching of values, but also about the art of living, which is at the heart of evangelisation.

“Education is not a secondary task, but it is part of the evangelising mission of the Church - this moment when education is in crisis is when the Catholic school has to reaffirm its identity to be able to effect these challenges with joy.”

On the topic of rationalism, Cardinal Maradiaga said students should be encouraged to see reason and faith as working together, rather than in opposition, and use these to address real issues of the human person.

“The Catholic school should contribute to this new humanity, and the synthesis between reason and faith,” he said.

The Cardinal added that values taught in the school would help students navigate their way through more problematic messages received through the media as well.

“This influence has been able to replace the family in the transmission of values,” he said.

“Far from forming better people, the media turns them into passive subjects at the service of specific interests.
“Catholic education must look for the morality of conscience, which enables young people to be critical of their surroundings, so that they may unmask the ideologies that are enslaving humanity today.”

Presenting the Mary Ward lecture later that day, Cardinal Maradiaga’s focus changed to one on climate change, and the effect of environmental disaster on some of the poorest of the world’s people.

As President of Caritas Internationalis and former Vatican spokesman to the International Monetary Fund on Third World debt, this is an issue that is undoubtedly close to his heart, and he began by explaining why Caritas’ own position on the issue is based on ‘climate justice’.

“Climate change is more than a scientific or an economic problem: it is about people, whose fragile homes are swept away by floods, or rent by hurricanes,” he said.

“It is about people whose crops are failing, whose cattle are dying, people who are forced to leave their homelands in search of food.

“This is not just an issue to be debated between academics and scientists: it is talking about people – poor people. So, Caritas, calling for agreement on significant reduction in Greenhouse gas emissions, was looking for climate justice.”

Describing the role of Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical Letter Laudato Si in this, Cardinal Maradiaga said that, despite the scepticism faced by the document, it had been built on sound expert views and a commitment to the earth and creation.

“When the Pope started to mention that he wanted to publish an encyclical letter on climate change, they said, what do popes know about this? This is a matter for scientific people, not religious people,” he said.

“But two hundred specialists from around the world were giving input to the Encyclical.”

His Eminence stressed that the purpose and tone of Laudato Si was not to condemn or judge, but instead to encourage dialogue and to educate.

“The approach of the Encyclical Letter is, I want to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home,” he said.

“This cultural and ecological crisis must be translated into new habits. It is a matter of education, not only protesting.”