By Ononye VC
Pope Francis met on Monday with representatives of the Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani University in Georgia as they celebrated the 20th anniversary of their foundation.
Greeting professors, students, and friends of the university, the pope thanked them for their visit, saying they represent the importance of education and cultural research.
The education of young people, the pope continued, provides new opportunities to grow and learn about oneself.
“[Education] helps the younger generation to grow, discovering and cultivating the most fruitful roots so that they bear fruit.”
In Georgia, “a young country but one with an ancient history,” Pope Francis said their university represents the long and fruitful collaboration between Catholics and Orthodox in the cultural and educational spheres.
• Education as a light to fight the darkness of hatred
In his address, Pope Francis noted that the word “education” in the Georgian language, “ganatleba,” comes from the word “light”. Education, like a lamp placed in a dark room, has the ability to change the appearance of everything.
In a world filled with the darkness of hatred, the pope said there is a strong need for the “illumination of knowing,” which in and of itself restores the memory of the past and sheds light on the present.
“There is a need for this beneficial illumination of knowing, while in the world the darkness of hatred thickens, which often comes from forgetfulness and indifference.”
Knowledge is key to knowing oneself, and, in turn, discovering faith and God. Furthermore, it is through culture and education that we can restore the “memory of the past and shed light on the present, which is “indispensable for the growth of a young person” and of society.
Young people are essential in this role, Pope Francis continued, as their courageous joy and love of life allow faith and joy to be cultivated.
The history of Georgia also embodies this transition from darkness to light, the pope said, for there were many instances the country was able to shine during moments of difficulty resulting from foreign invasion and domination. The Georgian people were able to resist these moments of difficulty “precisely because of their faith and culture.”
Within these moments of trial, Pope Francis explained, the role of the Catholic Church was indispensable, providing spaces to nurture the faith of the Georgian people and build a community.
This is embodied in the existence of their institute, which provides the possibility to spread the beautiful and unique “Georgian humanism” to the world.
“Light is also an example to us in this: It does not exist to be seen, but to make people see around and more. So is culture, which opens up horizons and expands boundaries.”
Concluding his address, the pope encouraged the members to be a “gentle light” for young people, a light that opens up horizons and expands boundaries to others.