Pontifical Council for the Pastoral
Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Greetings from the Anglican Communion 

 

The Very Rev. David Richardson

 Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See

Director of the Anglican Centre, Rome

 

It is a great pleasure and an honour to be with you again this year at this III World Congress for the Pastoral Care of International Students with its theme of International Students and Meeting of Cultures.

I bring greetings and prayers for this Congress from His Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury. As his permanent Representative to the Holy See I also represent today the whole Anglican Communion. As an Australian, some of the experience out of which I will speak is from that context.

Part of the function of a good working university is to form critical and active citizens. Indeed a number of recent writings about the priorities of the university have underlined this notion of the university as being responsible for citizenship - not by providing courses in citizenship, as might a secondary school, but by equipping people with the skills and the virtues needed in a critical and active citizen.

One of the characteristics of what might be loosely described as a liberal education is the notion of educating people in order to equip them to live a "good" (in the sense of virtuous) life. Living well implies living fully (St Irenaeus); living fully implies the engagement of the whole person. It also implies the whole person engaging with other whole persons in ways that respect their integrity and recognise human social mutuality. In other words education is about more than academic learning; it also involves social learning. We educate each other and we have responsibilities towards each other. Education at the University, as the Blessed John Henry Newman so powerfully argues in his "Idea of a University," is about equipping the student for a life of wholeness, service, virtue…. 

That is why catering for the spiritual needs of students is more and moreregarded as being as important as catering for their academic and intellectual needs. Students need pastoral care not only to face the occasional challenges of the common life they will live at university - whether as undergraduates or as more mature students - but also because the effectiveness of their learning, and indeed the teaching they receive, will depend in part on their spiritual balance as well as that of their teachers. One can imagine institutions of learning where the academic results are brilliant but from which the students emerge impoverished and ill equipped to lead the kind of generous and virtuous lives society (the good society) would aspire to.   

In a profoundly secular age it is perhapssignificantthat our universities seem often readily to acknowledge the importance of catering for the pastoral and spiritual needs of their students. In the U.K. every university will, in collaboration with religious institutions including our own churches, provide for the specific needs of students from a wide range of religious backgrounds, a range that has expanded considerably over the years. International students are no less needy or deserving than home students: living in a strange culture indeed they have greater needs. Universities today will have – and be expected to have – a variety of chaplains: Christian of various denominations, Jewish and Moslem and many others besides.

One would hope that this approach might be respected and replicated in places of learning around the world. It is a question that demands close inspection especially as we globalise; and no sector is more globalised now than educational provision especially at the tertiary level. Some background statistics might help us here:

In U.K. the Church of England provides training and funding for university chaplaincy ministry, authorising or licensing both ordained and lay chaplains. There are just over 200 Anglican chaplains in English universities (which means almost every institution has an Anglican chaplain), all of whom understand their remit as involving being available for all students regardless of their religious affiliation or lack of it. Along with Student Services Chaplaincies offer front line support for international students, with a specific vocation to provide worship opportunitiespastoral care and links into local communities to enable students to have an experience of British life. They often respond to students needing emergency support, financial or emotional / psychiatric, acting as friend or advocate with emergency services.

In Australia, Trinity College, an Anglican institution within the University of Melbourne, has been working with international students through its Foundation Studies program for over twenty years. Founded in 1872, Trinity remains a residential college which like those of Oxford or Cambridge houses a community of students and scholars, as well as teaching an Anglican seminary program. Its Foundation Studies program is a new expression of the tradition of collegiate university education.

Foundation year programs are common in the UK and other countries like Australia, where state university systems have uniform requirements not met by some secondary/high school curricula. A year of Foundation studies provides the necessary additional academic preparation, but also a bridging experience in the new university and society.

Trinity receives between 600-800 students from East and South-East Asia, the Middle East, Russia and Latin America, the vast majority of whom are offered a place in the degree programs of the University after a year's study as non-resident students at Trinity. In the College they undertake a core curriculum which includes the History of Ideas, English Literature and Drama, ensuring not only the progress of their language ability for study in English, but provision of tools for critical reasoning and communication of their own ideas. The College also provides assistance with accommodation and pastoral support through counsellors, welfare officers, and a Chaplain who is an Anglican priest. 

I return to the question I raised a few minutes ago: one would hope and expect that best practice ways of supporting international students might be respected and replicated universally in places of higher learning - not least because the exchange of students across the globe is two way, of mutual benefit, being in the interests of the less developed as well as the developed nations.

Religious belief is not only belief about God; it is also belief about human beings. What is non-negotiable in faith is not simply a set of doctrines about the transcendent, but a set of commitments about how human beings are to be regarded and responded to. It is this vital area, focusing particularly on international students and the meeting of cultures; that is your topic. The theme of this congress is therefore of huge importance; I wish you every blessing in your explorations.