University should not be for the privileged few, Pope Francis says in Japan

Pope Francis at the general audience in St Peters Square on January 31 2018 Credit Daniel Ibanez 2 CNA Pope Francis at the General Audience in St. Peter's Square, Jan. 31, 2018. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

At a Jesuit university in Tokyo on Tuesday, Pope Francis said a quality university education should not be something out of reach for the average person, and should promote justice and the common good.

He asked Nov. 26 that the education of students at Sophia University may prepare them to "be concerned that their conduct is just and humane, conscientious and responsible, and show themselves resolute defenders of the vulnerable," even in complex situations.

"May they be known for the integrity so greatly needed in these times when words and actions are often misleading or deceitful," he added. "Quality university education should not be the privilege of a few, but constantly informed by the effort to serve justice and the common good."

"The Lord and his Church," he said, "are counting on you to share in the mission of seeking, finding and spreading divine Wisdom, and thus offering joy and hope to present-day society."

The pope addressed a group of the university's students, as well as their chancellor and the Jesuit provincial of Japan.

Pope Francis spent his final morning in Japan at the Catholic Sophia University. He celebrated a Mass with Jesuits in the university chapel. After breakfast, he visited elderly and ill priests of Japan before giving his address to the university.

The stop at the university was the last appointment of a busy six-day trip to Asia, which began in Thailand Nov. 20-23. The trip was intended to encourage the two countries' small Catholic communities, which are less than 0.5% of the population in both places.

Noting the name of the university, Sophia, which is the ancient Greek word for wisdom, Pope Francis said, "in order to manage our resources in constructive and efficient ways, we have always been in need of true Wisdom."

"In a society as competitive and technologically oriented as present-day Japan, this university should be a center not only of intellectual formation, but also a place where a better society and a more hope-filled future can take shape," he urged.

He also said Sophia University should inspire a sense of discernment in students, according to the Ignatian tradition on which it is based. The students should leave the university feeling able to make decisions "responsibly and freely," and based on conscience.

Despite Catholics being a minority in Japan, Francis said that "their presence is felt."

"I myself have witnessed the general esteem in which the Catholic Church is held, and I hope that this mutual respect may increase in the future."

"I would also observe that, for all the efficiency and order that mark Japanese society, I have sensed a yearning, too, for something greater: a profound desire to create an ever more humane, compassionate and merciful society," he said.

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