Vatican Announces Virtual Meeting with University Students Across the Americas
~ by Gerard O’Connell, AMERICA
Pope Francis will engage in a dialogue with university students from North, Central and South America on February 24. The historic event will by hosted by Loyola University Chicago in collaboration with Argentinian theologian, Emilce Cuda, the head of the office of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, who convinced the pope to participate.
Ms. Cuda, whom Francis appointed on July 26 to be the first woman ever to head this Vatican office, explained that Loyola University invited her to lead a dialogue on the synodal process that is now underway in the Catholic Church worldwide.
The genesis of the upcoming event with students and the pope, Ms. Cuda said that in June 2021, before Pope Francis had appointed her to the Vatican post, Loyola University invited her to give a lecture on the topic of synodality, in which she would facilitate a conversation on how to interpret what is meant by “the synodal way.” But, she told Loyola that she was not interested merely giving another conference on synodality. Instead, she “proposed to do a synodal action that involves migrant university students [from the Americas.] Ms. Cuda explained she wanted to focus on migration, not from the humanitarian point of view of “assisting migrants” when they arrive in a new country, but instead “looking at the root causes of migration from the scientific and technological perspectives, and asking what we can do to resolve them.
Ms. Cuda said she wants “to involve our advanced students to seek solutions in each country.” Most migrants from Latin America are economic migrants, not refugees, she noted, and in her view, the root causes of migration are “structural” and, for example, linked to foreign countries taking resources away from countries in the region.
Migrants are portrayed in the media as cleaners or manual workers in the gig economy. Ms. Cuda added, while the media rarely shows migrants working in scientific or technical fields. To correct this she wants to give greater visibility to this second, under-represented group of migrants. She proposed to Loyola a synodal action – which in the spirit of synodality, would involve students’ gathering together to discuss and to listen to one another’s thoughts on the root causes of migration – rather than a conference.
Ms. Cuda sent the pope a letter in which she proposed that Francis join in on the event, and she was surprised and overjoyed when on December 20 he replied, “Yes, I will participate, but you must help me.”
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Pope Francis greets Emilce Cuda, an Argentine theologian and head of office of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, at the Vatican March 17, 2017. Cuda, a participant at the Nov. 21-28 Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean in Mexico City, said the meeting did not issue a new pastoral plan for the region, but will continue evangelization efforts outlined in the 2007 Aparecida document. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)