Cardinal Bertone defends religious dimension of education

By David Kerr

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Bl. Antonia Maria Verna

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, used the beatification of an Italian sister who founded a teaching order to defend the contribution of Catholic schools to society.

“Too often it seems that people are afraid to leave space for the religious dimension of life, which is inherent to the human heart, and would like to hide it in the private world of the individual,” Cardinal Bertone said.

But such an attitude “greatly impoverishes educational activity,” he told a cathedral congregation in the small northwestern Italian city of Ivrea on Oct. 2.

Cardinal Bertone made his comments during the beatification ceremony of Sister Antonia Maria Verna. She founded the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception teaching order in Ivrea in 1802.

The cardinal, who was representing Pope Benedict XVI, said that Blessed Antonia’s educational ideas were still relevant because the Church’s teachings lead to full human development.

He said that the life and work of Blessed Antonia “invites us not to be afraid to educate people in the demanding choices which Jesus continues to present in the Church.”

Over 6,000 turned out for the ceremony, which was broadcast on large screens outside the church.

Cardinal Bertone also highlighted Blessed Antonia as a pioneer of female education who worked towards “the authentic promotion of women in the society of the day.”

From its humble beginnings in north-west Italy, Blessed Antonia’s order now has schools across the world and particularly in America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

These schools, said Cardinal Bertone, have produced “generations of teachers who have been, and continue to be, true educators whose contribution to the cultural and social development of their countries is difficult to evaluate and too often forgotten.”

To mark the beatification, a delegation from the Diocese of Ivrea will be welcomed by Pope Benedict XVI at the general audience in Rome on Oct. 5.

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