ROME — Pope Francis encouraged UNESCO — the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — to continue to promote and support education and the integral development of all people, including their spiritual life.
“Building bridges between people through education and culture can be done only by taking into account the human person in his or her totality,” he said in a written message, read by the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Nov. 12, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the organization’s establishment.
UNESCO was founded right after the Second World War as a response to an era marked by racist, ethnic and anti-Semitic violence, prejudice and intolerance, and with an aim to promote a culture of peace through education, science and culture.
In his written message, the pope praised the organization’s founding mission and reiterated St. John Paul II’s endorsement that it would be natural for the Catholic Church to be part of such a “great project” with the Vatican represented at UNESCO by a permanent observer.
Such a presence is in harmony with the nature and mission of the Catholic Church because of “the organic and constitutive link, which exists between religion in general and Christianity in particular, on the one hand, and culture, on the other hand,” Pope Francis said, quoting the late pope.
Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church upholds the “truth that mankind has received, its origin, nature and destiny” and that people are not defined by what they possess, but by who they are, by their God-given dignity and by their capacity to “go beyond themselves and grow in humanity.”
He said he hoped that their continued collaboration would help develop, not just a “coming together of cultures, but also a true ‘culture of coming together.'”
In a separate video message the pope sent to the organization the same day, he said their partnership reflects their “common service to peace and solidarity among peoples, to the integral development of the human person and to the protection of the cultural heritage of humanity.”
The church has a privileged relationship with UNESCO, he said, because “the church is at the service of the Gospel and the Gospel is the most humanizing message known to history.”
It is “a message of life, freedom and hope, which has inspired countless educational initiatives in every age and in every place and has inspired the scientific and cultural growth of the human family,” he said in the video message.