Giving people the ability to communicate values for strengthening the family in today’s society through education – that is the main mission of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute. The institute, which is headquartered in Rome, has branch campuses on every continent. The Benin campus is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Representatives of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) paid the campus a visit. The foundation offers more than 120 scholarships as part of its support of the African institute of theological studies.
The Kanga family from Cameroon is a good example of how the institute named after Pope Wojtyla works. Thanks to one of these scholarships, the married couple was able to make the trip from their country to Cotonou, Benin, with four of their five children. They are currently completing a master’s degree programme for lay people. After three years, they will return to Cameroon to help other families, offering them a professional orientation to help them deal with the problems of today’s society. The Seke family has already finished a course of study at the John Paul II Institute. The married couple has founded the “The Power of Love” centre, which offers engaged couples an orientation for marriage.
At the pontifical institute, both priests and religious as well as married or unmarried lay people complete courses of studies that are based on the principles laid out in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, which states, “All that you succeed in doing to support the family is destined to have an effectiveness that goes beyond its own sphere and reaches other people too and has an effect on society.”
“The John Paul II Institute in Benin is a kind of beacon for the African society, which is under the influence of a global trend that is attempting to push through cultural colonisation in the form of gender ideology,” explained Rafael D’Aqui, head of the Benin section of Aid to the Church in Need, after his return from the African country. He added, “A society without a foundation is doomed to collapse.” Students at the institute are trained to deal with issues that “are based on the daily values underlying marital life, of men and women as well as in the parish and in civil society – not only from a Catholic standpoint, but from an anthropological one.”
The pontifical institute would like to serve all of Africa. For this reason, more and more students are coming from all parts of the continent. In Africa, the family still has a high standing, in spite of a general decay in its structure.
Classes are held in French; however, plans have been made to introduce further languages such as English and Portuguese. The course offerings will also be expanded to include evening courses to open them up to working students.