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Rome Reports

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Papal initiative brings education, sports and solidarity...and also soccer stars like Messi

According to the latest figures from the United Nations, there are 61 million children without access to education, and about 250 million who are not learning even basic knowledge.

With such alarming numbers, Pope Francis took action by supporting a project known as Scholas Occurrentes. It's made up of a worldwide network of schools that share knowledge online, including tools to facilitate teaching.

JOSÉ MARíA DEL CORRAL

Co-Director, Scholas Occurrentes

"When we talk about politics or governments, it takes too much time to change laws. But children can't wait. That's why this network is a call to immediate action.�

The project leader is José Marí­a del Corral, one of three personal guests the Pope invited to his inaugural Mass. The professor worked with the now Pope in Buenos Aires, alongside Enrique Palmeyro, who also serves as co-director. Back in Argentina, then-Cardinal Bergoglio tasked Palmeyro with reaching out to people who made a living out to recycling trash. Part of that goal was to improve a network for schools in the city, which gave way to this international project. 

ENRIQUE PALMEYRO

Director, Scholas Occurrentes

"The Pope is constantly giving us his support, and yes, the truth is that his calls and emails come pretty frequently.�

The worldwide initiative continues to grow. When it was launched at the Vatican back in August, two star soccer players like Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Buffon, gave their support. 

ENRIQUE PALMEYRO

Director, Scholas Occurrentes

"The Pope told us: 'bring together schools, popular sports and solidarity.' Combined with these values, and with these athletes that kids look up to, we can promote good values and education.�

But Scholas Occurrentes isn't just about children. Adults are joining in to do their part. Now the program has prepared a special gift for the Pope's one year anniversary as Pontiff in March.

ENRIQUE PALMEYRO

Director, Scholas Occurrentes

"One of the most beloved Italian athletes, Pupi Zanetti, came to us. He's a Christian player and he  came with Dudu Aoutate, who is Jewish. He presented himself and said: 'I'm the captain of the Israeli team.' They also invited a Muslim player. So, their gift to the Pope will be the first inter-religious match for peace.â?

So the gift will be a way to combine sports with real life solidarity and achievement. All under the umbrella of an educational project, followed closely by Pope Francis. 

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