Vatican City, May 21, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis said Saturday that Catholic schools should not be Christian in name only, but in fact.
Speaking to the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the pope underlined that Christians educators must first of all be witnesses to the Gospel.
"The Christian educator, in the school of Christ, is first of all a witness, and he is a teacher to the extent that he is a witness," Pope Francis said on May 21.
"And above all I pray for you, that you may be brothers not only in name, but in fact. And for your schools to be Christian not in name, but in fact," he said.
The pope met with the Christian Brothers as the religious institute is participating in its 46th General Chapter in Rome on the theme: "Building new paths to transform lives."
"We know that the 'way,' the truly new path, is Jesus Christ," Pope Francis said.
"By following him, by walking with him, our lives are transformed, and we in turn become leaven, salt, and light."
The De La Salle Christian Brothers, formally known as the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, were founded by St. John Baptist de La Salle to provide Christian education to the young, especially the poor.
The brothers live in community and take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and service of the poor through education.
Pope Francis read the brothers part of a quote from St. Paul's letter to the Galatians in which Paul said he was in labor until "Christ is formed in you."
"To educate in this way is your apostolate, your specific contribution to evangelization: to make humanity grow according to Christ," he said.
"In this sense, your schools are 'Christian': not because of an external label, but because they take this path."
Pope Francis said that Christian teachers are "on the front line" in "educating so as to move from a closed world to an open world; from a throwaway culture to a culture of care; from a culture of rejection to a culture of integration; from the pursuit of vested interests to the pursuit of the common good."
"As educators, you know very well that this transformation must start from the conscience, or it will only be a façade," he added.
Pope Francis' audience with the Christian brothers was one of many audiences that he had on May 21. The pope also met with the publishers of the Famiglia Cristiana magazine, participants in an international conference on biodiversity, and young people receiving the sacrament of Confirmation in the Diocese of Genoa this year.
In all of the audiences, the pope spoke from a wheelchair. He has been primarily in a wheelchair since May 5 due to an injury to his right knee, although the pope did stand for longer periods while offering Mass for the canonization held in St. Peter's Square on May 15.
At the end of his speech to the Christian Brothers, Pope Francis thanked them for their service as teachers and reminded them not to forget to pray for him.
"Go forth with the joy of evangelizing by educating and of educating by evangelizing," he said.