Pope praises role of archives, libraries, in tech-oriented world

Pope Francis greets teachers and students from the Vatican School of Paleography, Diplomatic and Archival Studies and the Vatican School of Library Studies during a meeting at the Vatican May 13, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The troves of knowledge stored in archives and libraries must be made available and accessible to all people, especially as they increasingly depend on technological means for their knowledge, Pope Francis said.

Scholars overseeing archives and managing libraries must have “a great openness to discussion and dialogue,” Pope Francis told professors and students from the Vatican’s archival and library sciences schools May 13. He encouraged them to develop “a readiness to welcome,” especially the marginalized and those suffering “material, cultural and spiritual poverties.”

The pope encouraged the members of the two schools — the Vatican School of Paleography, Diplomatic and Archival Studies and the Vatican School of Library Studies — to avoid becoming complacent in distributing knowledge, particularly given the “decisive and epochal cultural challenges” of modern day, noting the problems of contemporary scholarship “related to globalization, to the risk of a flattening and devaluation of knowledge.”

He highlighted humanity’s “increasing complex relationship with technology,” the challenges of engaging with and studying traditional cultures, making sources of information accessible to all and the responsibility of scholars to “defend all from the toxic, unhealthy and violent things that can lurk in the world of social media and technological knowledge.”

Pope Francis also urged the scholars to avoid “self-referentiality” and to share their ideas and experiences with other academic institutions.

Marking the 140th anniversary of the archival school and the 90th anniversary of the school of library sciences, the pope said that such anniversaries are not meant “just to honor old glories” but to “look forward to the future, to have the courage to rethink yourselves in the face of demands from the cultural and professional world.”

The pope praised the “decisive characteristic” of the two schools: their “eminently practical” and “concrete” approach to problems and studies, which he said enables them to come into contact with past knowledge and transmit it to future generations.

“Confronting the realty of things is worth more than ideology,” he said. “Ideologies always kill.”

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