Pope Francis stressed this when receiving members of the Italian Parents’ Association (AGE), in audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, on the 50th anniversary of its founding.
In his address, the Pope stressed how great a gift it is to have children and how it is important to cooperate with all the other structures and people them in their schooling and upbringing.
“Dear parents, children are the most precious gift that you have ever received,” Francis said, advising: “Know how to protect them with commitment and generosity, leaving them with the freedom necessary to grow and mature,” in a way that eventually they themselves too may be open to life.”
“The attention with which, as an association, you safeguard from the dangers that enter into the lives of the youngest, may it not impede you from looking forward with trust toward the world, knowing how to choose and indicate to your children the best occasions for human, civil and Christian growth.”
The Pope expressed appreciation for their commitment to also support education efforts and initiatives. The Holy Father lamented that teachers are no longer appreciated as they used to be in the past, and noted that they deserve to be appreciated for their precious contributions.
The Pope deviated from his remarks to recall when he misbehaved in school and got in trouble for saying something bad to the teacher.
“If I may, I will tell you an anecdote,” he said, explaining: “I was ten years old, and I said something unpleasant to the teacher. She called my mother. The day after my mother came to school, and the teacher went to receive her; they spoke, then my mother called me, and in front of the teacher she rebuked me.
The Pope noted how his mother told him to apologize to the teacher and kiss the teacher, and he obeyed. “I did [both], and then I returned to the classroom, happy, and the story was over.”
“No, it wasn’t over,” he stressed, “The second chapter was when I returned home… This is ‘collaboration’ in the education of a child: between family and teachers.”
“Without them, you risk remaining alone in the your educational action and to be less and less able to face the new educational challenges that they come from contemporary culture, from society, from mass media, from new technologies. The teachers are like you, engaged every day in the educational service to your children.
“If it’s right to complain about the limits of their action, it is a duty to esteem them as the most precious allies in the educational enterprise that you bring forward together.”
Pope Francis concluded, thanking them for the meeting and saying he “warmly blesses” them, their families and the association. He also assured them of his prayers and asked them to pray for him.