More than a hundred representatives of NGOs, international organizations (United Nations, UNESCO, Council of Europe, Human Rights Council, etc.), as well as representatives of the Holy See, heads of dicasteries and congregations participated in the International Forum of Catholic-inspired NGOs in Rome (December 5-7, 2019). The International Association of Charity (AIC) was represented by Isabelle Chaperon, along with 21 other people representing their respective NGOs in the International Catholic Center for Cooperation (CCIC) with UNESCO, the platform of Catholic-inspired NGOs active with UNESCO. Christine Roche is President of CCIC.
Concern for a society that leaves no one on the peripheries was developed during the presentation of the following seven themes: human rights, development, health, education, family, youth and migrants.
The participants struggled to identify the context, the key elements and the main issues and to propose recommendations for action. The thematic groups had worked on these specific issues during the past two years and previous meetings resulted in a final document. The AIC has been involved in the development of the educational section of this document. In the section, the AIC underlined the educational responsibility of every Christian, both outside and within the framework of Catholic teaching. Also, people are reminded of the fact that the content of such education should make young people every more aware of the equal dignity of men and women. Faced with the obvious urgency with regard to quality sexual education, and aware of conflicting ideologies that often underlie international documents, the AIC insisted on the need for a more global approach, that is, an approach that integrates sexual education into on-going formation for a relational and affective life. Such formation must take into account the inseparable dimensions of the human person: heart, body and spirit.
The people responsible for organizing this Forum wanted to give ample time for the representatives of the various NGO to speak. Thus, the participants were able to share their experiences in terms of promotion, in order to create networks and to get to know each other better. This enabled the group to walk along a path that Pope Francis has pointed out and has also taken.
Indeed, on Saturday, December 7, the Holy Father showed his interest in the role of NGOs as an active presence of the Church in the world. He received that participants in the Forum in a private audience. In his message he praised the audacity and imagination of NGOs, urging them to always give priority to the dignity of the human being. He insisted on the need for the formation of its members, considering that the complexity of the world and the anthropological crisis in which we are immersed imply the need for adequate professional preparation in scientific and human subjects. In addition, people must know how to present these subjects from a Christian perspective and thus, promote dialogue and positive reflection on human dignity. The Pope reminded the participants of his worldwide call to reconstruct a global Compact on education, a step forward, which can train for peace and justice, the acceptance of peoples and universal solidarity. He went on to speak about the need for teamwork and concluded by stating: Today’s world is calling for new boldness and new imagination in opening new paths of dialogue and cooperation, in order to promote a “culture of encounter,” where, in accordance with the creative plan of God, the dignity of every human person is foremost.
During the forum, many contacts were made. More specifically, Ms. Christine Roche (CCIC) and Ms. Isabelle Chaperon (AIC) visited the Congregation for Catholic Education where they met with Bishop Thivierge and spoke about the “Global Compact on Education” which will held on May 13-14 2020. The same individuals were received by Bishop Polvani in the Dicastery of Culture, where they were able to present their activities, especially the challenges of human nature in the face of technological innovations in the area of artificial intelligence. This was a fascinating interview since he himself is an expert in biological innovation and is up to date with the latest innovations made possible by artificial intelligence in human biology. An interview with Ms. Gambino, from the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, allowed the same individuals to exchange views on the ideologies that are problematic in UNESCO’s sex education programs, and documents that claim to be law even if they have not been ratified by the states.
We were able to talk briefly with Cardinal Parolin, who came to celebrate the Eucharist as well as with Ms. Firmina Álvarez, from the Secretary of State, who was present throughout the Forum.
From the perspective of the CCIC, of which the AIC is a member and part of the Board of Directors, this forum provided us with an opportunity to meet with 22 representatives of the NGOs that are part of the organization.
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM
Eastern Province, USA