It was difficult to align timely attention to both this document and Vatican II’s decree on ecumenism. Better late than never, here we go with the Declaration on Christian Education. This document was promulgated at the last council session, in October 1965. An unnumbered introduction leads it off:
The Sacred Ecumenical Council has considered with care how extremely important education is in the life of (humankind) and how its influence ever grows in the social progress of this age.(Among many documents illustrating the importance of education confer above all apostolic letter of Benedict XV, Communes Litteras, April 10, 1919: A.A.S. 11 (1919) p. 172. Pius XI’s apostolic encyclical, Divini Illius Magistri, Dec. 31, 1929: A.A.S. 22 (1930) pp. 49-86. Pius XII’s allocution to the youths of Italian Catholic Action, April 20, 1946: Discourses and Radio Messages, vol. 8, pp. 53-57. Allocution to fathers of French families, Sept. 18, 1951: Discourses and Radio Messages, vol. 13, pp. 241-245. John XXIII’s 30th anniversary message on the publication of the encyclical letter, Divini Illius Magistri, Dec. 30, 1959: A.A.S. 52 (1960) pp. 57-S9. Paul VI’s allocution to members of Federated Institutes Dependent on Ecclesiastic Authority, Dec. 30, 1963: Encyclicals and Discourses of His Holiness Paul VI, Rome, 1964, pp. 601-603. Above all are to be consulted the Acts and Documents of the Second Vatican Council appearing in the first series of the ante-preparatrory phase. vol. 3. pp. 363-364; 370-371; 373-374.)
The guiding principles behind the attention given to education by the council bishops:
Indeed, the circumstances of our time have made it easier and at once more urgent to educate young people and, what is more, to continue the education of adults. (People) are more aware of their own dignity and position; more and more they want to take an active part in social and especially in economic and political life.(Cf. John XXIII’s encyclical letter Mater et Magistra, May 15, 1961: A.A.S. 53 (1961) pp. 413-415; 417-424; Encyclical letter, Pacem in Terris, April 11, 1963: A.A.S. 55 (1963) p. 278 ff.) Enjoying more leisure, as they sometimes do, (people) find that the remarkable development of technology and scientific investigation and the new means of communication offer them an opportunity of attaining more easily their cultural and spiritual inheritance and of fulfilling one another in the closer ties between groups and even between peoples.
Consequently, attempts are being made everywhere to promote more education. The rights of (a person) to an education, particularly the primary rights of children and parents, are being proclaimed and recognized in public documents.(Declaration on the Rights of Man of Dec. 10, 1948, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, and also cf. the Declaration of the Rights of Children of Nov. 20 1959; additional protocol to the Convention Safeguarding the Rights of Men and Fundamental Liberties, Paris, March 20, 1952; regarding that universal profession of the character of human laws cf. apostolic letter Pacem in Terris, of John XXIII of April 11, 1963: A.A.S. 55 (1963) p. 295 ff.) As the number of pupils rapidly increases, schools are multiplied and expanded far and wide and other educational institutions are established. New experiments are conducted in methods of education and teaching. Mighty attempts are being made to obtain education for all, even though vast numbers of children and young people are still deprived of even rudimentary training and so many others lack a suitable education in which truth and love are developed together.
The Church claims a role in the education of human beings, aware that as with other Vatican II documents, broad guidelines are given, to be followed by the work of commissions and episcopal conferences:
To fulfill the mandate she has received from her divine founder of proclaiming the mystery of salvation to all (people) and of restoring all things in Christ, Holy Mother the Church must be concerned with the whole of (human) life, even the secular part of it insofar as it has a bearing on (our) heavenly calling.(Cf. John XXIII’s encyclical letter, Mater et Magistra, May 15, 1961: A.A.S. 53 (1961) p. 402. Cf. Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no. 17: A.A.S. 57 (1965) p. 21, and schema on the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 1965.) Therefore she has a role in the progress and development of education. Hence this sacred synod declares certain fundamental principles of Christian education especially in schools. These principles will have to be developed at greater length by a special post-conciliar commission and applied by episcopal conferences to varying local situations.