Source: Basilica News Agency
October 19, 2015
The message of His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of Romania, on the occasion of the International Theological Congress “The Relation Between Parish and School in the Life and Mission of the Church in the Contemporary Context,” Bucharest, Dumitru Stăniloae National Centre for Continuing Formation, 18-21 October 2015:
In the context of the year 2015, declared by the Romanian Patriarchate as the Solemn Year of Parish and Monastery Missions Today and the Commemorative Year of Saint John Chrysostom and of the Great Spiritual Shepherds, the Theological and Educational Department of the Patriarchal Administration, in cooperation with the Patriarch Justinian Faculty of Orthodox Theology within the University of Bucharest, and with the support of the State Secretariat for Religious Cults has organized the International Theological Congress entitled “The Relation Between Parish and School in the Life and Mission of the Church in the Contemporary Context.” This academic event represents an occasion for numerous hierarchs, priests, and professors from home and abroad to meet and analyze and deepen the understanding and systematize different aspects regarding the relation between parish and school within the wider frame of Church missions today.
The works of this year’s International Theological Congress is divided into five parts, as follows:
1. The specific role played by religious and theological education in the context of parish missions today: challenges, priorities and perspectives;
2. Religious Education – a catalyst for the partnership between parish and school;
3. The missionary and ecclesial perspective assumed and developed by theological education in the contemporary context of parish missions;
4. Structuring and promoting a specific mission of the Church for today’s youth;
5. Developing a specific missionary strategy for the diaspora.
At the 6th Congress of the Faculties of Orthodox Theology in Romania (Arad, September 21—23 2014), entitled “Theology and Mission. The Role of the faculties of Theology in the Context of Parish Missions,” the coordinates for the improvement of the missionary dimension of university theological education had already been set, taking into the account the current needs of the life of the Church.
Thus, it has been emphasized that the faculties of Orthodox Theology have the responsibility to assume and improve missionary and ecclesial awareness, and at the same time, to assert the relation between theological reflection and spiritual ecclesial experience, in the context of current parish mission work. In the present context there is a need for theological schools to develop a dynamic and convincing perspective for the life of the Church, through the complementarity and the cooperation between witness and mission, between research and experience, between school and parish. Since a “theologian is the one who prays and the one who prays is a theologian” (Evagrius of Pontus), true theology cannot be separated from the ecclesial experience, and that is because the purpose of theology is the research, confirmation and cultivation of the true communion of humans with God, in order to acquire salvation or eternal life. In this respect, as a science of theanthropic communion, true theology asserts that the proper space for this communion is the ecclesial community gathered in prayer and common action in the love of the Most Holy Trinity.
For this reason, the strengthening of the relation between parish and school in the life and mission of the Church has a special relevance as far as religious education is concerned. At present, both theological and religious education are two essential components of the Romanian educational system. We responded in solidarity to all challenges that we faced together during the previous school year (2014-2015), offering a common witness to the importance and necessity of religious education, in order to inform and to form the young generations, who need to permanently refer to true models, in a society where often non-values or “anti-values” are being promoted.
The Romanian Orthodox Church supports the necessity of establishing partnerships between parishes and schools in order to develop an efficient cooperation. By decision no. 12.477/2014 of the Holy Synod a framework regarding a Cooperation Protocol between parishes and educational institutions has been approved, in order to support and improve religious education. This cooperation protocol can be adjusted depending on the characteristic of the parish, of the educational institution, and of the common activities proposed.
Thus, according to the cooperation protocol, the parish
Will support children coming from disadvantaged families; will take action in order to prevent school dropout; will offer awards to meritorious pupils at different school contests and at the end of the school year; will support the conduct of the religious class by purchasing and donating auxiliary teaching materials to schools; will be involved in the organization of extracurricular and out-of-school activities – trips, pilgrimages, camps etc.; will co-opt teaching staff from among the parishioners in order to voluntarily work in the programs of additional pupil training; will present to the faithful the activity undertaken by the teacher/teachers of religion in the school; will maintain permanent contact with the school through the appointed representatives in order to provide prior, mutual, efficient and loyal information regarding the actions of common interest carried out; will conduct volunteer activities in which pupils can also be involved (Cooperation Protocol, article 5).
On the other hand, the school
will identify and communicate to the parish the cases of children coming from disadvantaged families and the required ways to assist them; will communicate the situations of truancy and of school dropout risk – can invite the parish representative to the discussions held with the parents of the pupils concerned; will communicate to the parish the list of pupils awarded at school contests and at the end of the school year; will identify the necessary additional teaching materials for a proper conduct of the religious class; will promote to pupils and teachers the common volunteer projects; will involve the pupils and teachers of the school in actions of assisting disadvantaged children; will facilitate the participation of pupils in different events organized by the school (children’s shows, concerts of Christmas carols etc.); will maintain permanent contact with the parish, through the appointed representatives, in order to provide prior, mutual, efficient and loyal information regarding the actions of common interest carried out; will invite the parish to the activities occasioned by the opening and closing of the school year, on the day of the school or on other festivities (Cooperation Protocol, article 7).
In this regard, the cooperation between Church, school and family will be intensified through concrete activities and projects, having the purpose of a more successful education. Within this process, the parents of the pupils, the teachers of religion and the parish priests must cooperate and follow the same objective: education and formation of children for life and society, but also for the Kingdom of God, i.e. to live within the family and the society with dignity, but also in light of the eternal love of God.
On this occasion we express our thanks to everyone who understood the importance of religious education and contributed to vouchsafing and promoting the traditional values of the Romanian people, by enrolling their children in religious class. We are especially grateful to the parents of the pupils within the association “Parents for Religious Education,” appreciating their love and devotedness to promoting a healthy and integral education.
We congratulate the organizers of this international congress expressing all our appreciation and we convey paternal blessings to every guest from home and abroad, as well as to every participant, with the hope that the results of this congress will contribute to enhancing the cooperation between parish and school, for the life and mission of the Church.