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St Mary’s Academic appointed Thematic Expert in Education of the United Nations Catholic-inspired NGO Think Tank

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Academic from St Mary’s University, Twickenham Dr John Lydon recently attended the first meeting of the Thematic Experts Group of the United Nations Catholic-inspired International Forum where he has been appointed as an expert for education.

The meeting took place in Rome with the aim of considering how the international Thematic Experts network can contribute to strengthening the Catholic voice in the political debates as well as identify the core societal challenges in a rapidly changing world. These are impacting on traditional moral values and are affecting the very social fabric of our society. The responsibility the Catholic Church and its NGOs to engage in debates has become increasingly significant and how to counter some of the consequences of changing times and make a difference.

John Lydon was representing the major international Catholic NGO, the World Union of Catholic Teachers (WUCT) which advocates for Catholic teachers across the globe and has consultative status with UNESCO. He disseminated knowledge and advice on a number of themes related to his scholarship and research in Catholic education.

The first of these was Catholic school leadership and new paradigms for the 21st Century, concerning Catholic school leaders and the development of their spiritual capital and theological literacy. The second theme was the formation of Contemporary Catholic Teachers which focused on teaching as a vocation and the significance of the formation of Catholic teachers in a context of enveloping secularisation. The third theme concerned the challenge of the maintenance of Catholic Identity in a changing cultural context which reflects a “culture of interruption” in the context of the transmission of Catholic values and identity.

Dr Lydon also provided a useful case study from the UK around the current relationship between the Catholic Church and the State where there is critical solidarity in comparison to other States which places Catholic schools in a uniquely privileged position in terms of funding and governance. Finally, religious education in the changing local and global contexts was focused on with the need for Catholic teachers to be witnesses to the faith and participate in intercultural dialogue.

The Forum was chaired by Johan Ketelers and has established Catholic centres in Geneva, New York, Strasbourg and Paris where Christine Roche of CCIC is situated. The Forum is the enlarged successor to the Conference of International Catholic Organisations after the First World War.

The other thematic expert on education present was Allessandra Aula, Secretary General of the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE) based in Geneva. Other thematic areas included migration, family, human rights, and health. The Vatican Secretariat of State was represented by Dr Fermina Alvarez Alonso who expressed the support of the Secretariat for the work of the Forum.

The working group of committed lay NGO representatives had a most constructive meeting and succeeded in raising a number of positive considerations, conclusions, questions and ideas to be discussed at the full assembly of over 90 international Catholic-inspired NGOs in December 2017. This will better position and enhance the impact and identity of these organisations which have been active in a vast area of disciplines, operational activities and policy work.

Speaking of the Forum, Dr John Lydon said, "While the Catholic organisations may seem heterogeneous, it is clear from the this meeting that this impressive range of NGOs share the same goals of defending human dignity and rights and of exploring ways to integrate as much as possible the social teachings of the Catholic Church in order to contribute to a more just world.

"This will be achieved through even stronger networking and a dedicated communications strategy. The Holy See expressed its gratitude for the achievements of this Forum, especially around collaborative efforts, articulating goals and achieving successful outcomes."

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