Rome conference looks at cities as centres for ecology and education

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Rome conference looks at cities as centres for ecology and educationThe director of Scholas Ocurrentes speaks to Vatican News about the organisations' "Eco-Educational Cities" conference, currently underway in Rome, which aims to encourage mayors to promote education and sustainability.

"With this Congress we want to restore the commitment of all mayors of the world toward developing educational and sustainable cities."

These were the words of José María del Corral, speaking at the the First World Congress of “Eco-Educational Cities”, which is being held in Rome from the 23rd to the 25th of May.

Attending the conference along with Mr del Corral - who runs the Scholas Ocurrentes, a worldwide network of educational institutions promoted by Pope Francis - are 50 mayors from around Latin America and Europe.

Vatican News’ Renato Martinez spoke with del Corral about the event, and the importance of ecology to this year's programme.

Becoming “educational cities”

The aim of the World Congress, del Corral said, is to encourage cities to "become educational and sustainable."

He went on to explain that the Scholas Ocurrentes - which is organising the Congress along with the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) - emerged from an educational initiative established by Pope Francis in 2001, when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Archbishop Bergoglio – as he was then – was convinced that education ought not to be confined to the classroom, but rather be a commitment of the entire city. He thus lobbied the local government, together with a group of young people, for Buenos Aires to be declared an “educational city”, a resolution that was unanimously accepted.

This conviction, del Corral said, animates the work of the Scholas today; the World Congress of Eco-Educational cities aims to encourage “the cities themselves assume the commitment to become educational cities, and not cities of drugs, cities of crime, to recover the culture, the street.”

Promoting Laudato Si'

Among the Scholas Ocurrentes' many offerings are “Laudato Si'” schools, aimed at promoting Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter of the same name, which called for action on climate change.

The first of these schools was held last year, and the second is being held this week in Rome, to coincide with the World Congress. The aim is to provide insights on Laudato Si' to the fifty mayors who have gathered in the city.

It was the children who participated in the first school, del Corral says, who encouraged the organisers to include mayors in the next edition.

Closing meeting with Pope Francis

On the final day of the Congress, participants will meet with Pope Francis at Rome's Augustinianum Patristic Institute, and present him with the conclusions of their programme.

During the meeting, which is also part of a celebration marking ten years since the official founding of the Scholas, Pope Francis will speak over videolink with their youth communities in Argentina, United States, Mexico and the Colombian Amazon.

Renato Martinez and Joseph Tulloch