ROME — Universities must find ways to educate the “hearts and consciences” of students in an age of increasing technological advancement and shifting societal demands, Pope Francis said.

The challenges arising from development in science and technology and the needs of society “invite academic institutions to provide appropriate and up-to-date responses,” the pope told people attending a convention of the International Federation of Catholic Universities.

The convention was held Nov. 4-5 in Rome and drew leaders of Catholic universities together to discuss the concurring transformations of society and the university.

The conference theme — “New frontiers for university leaders. The future of health and the university ecosystem” — calls attention to the ongoing responsibility of universities to advance both individual education and the universal needs of humanity, Francis said.

Rectors and professors, he said, must prepare “new generations to become not only qualified professionals in various disciplines, but also proponents of the common good, creative and responsible leaders in social and civil life with a proper vision of the person and the world.”

“Old and new problems must be studied in their specificity and immediacy, but always within a personal and global perspective,” the pope said.

Complex new problems require complex solutions and that will mean promoting interdisciplinary approaches, international cooperation and sharing of resources, he said.

While academic studies have focused on the impersonal and objective nature of knowledge, today “many authors stress that completely impersonal experiences do not exist,” he noted. Universities are, therefore, challenged to find ways to connect that search for knowledge to students’ experience, creativity and perception of the world.

“The ecosystem of universities,” he said, “develops when every member of the university, by focusing on the whole person, cultivates a particular awareness of the context in which people live and grow and of all that contributes to their advancement.”

Having greater knowledge means having a greater obligation to serve others, the pope said. And when a university community claims a Christian inspiration, that responsibility is even greater.

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