Democracy: an educational urgency

From 2019 to 2022, Università Cattolica participated in the project "Democracy: an educational urgency in pluricultural and plurireligious contexts" promoted by the Pontifical Foundation Gravissimum Educationis. The project aimed to launch training courses capable of transforming democratic practices, informing them of the positive values ​​of peace, solidarity, the common good, in order to contribute to the harmonious coexistence of citizens of different religious faiths, ethical horizons and traditions in plural democratic systems, based on the mutual recognition of identities and related legitimate interests. To achieve this goal, the project brought together 14 universities from all over the world (the so-called Antennas), which carried out both research and training activities, each in its own particular field and then sharing the projects started and the results achieved both in annual seminars and in a final conference open to public.

In this context, the local antenna of Università Cattolica - based at the CeSI and directed by professors Francesco Bestagno and Andrea Santinihas set the goal of carrying out training and research activities on the subject of the protection and promotion of fundamental rights, in the belief that a solid and healthy democracy is also achieved through education in respect for the fundamental rights of the human person.


In the Antenna's work program it was decided to pay particular attention to the profile of freedom of religion, given the central importance that this freedom plays in contemporary pluricultural and plurireligious societies. The issue was addressed mainly from the perspective of international law and the law of the European Union, the developments of which represent an essential point of reference for the policy of the States on the subject. Furthermore, always from this double perspective, the attention has also been paid to the issue of economic, social and cultural rights (so-called second generation rights), whose protection appears increasingly urgent in a context of growing economic and social inequalities, further aggravated by Covid-19 pandemic.

The research activity of the local Antenna resulted in the publication of the volume volume “La libertà di religione in un contesto pluriculturale. Studi di diritto internazionale e dell’Unione europea” (Freedom of religion in a multicultural context. Studies of international law and of the European Union), edited by Andrea Santini and Monica Spatti, published in 2021 for Libreria Editrice Vaticana in the “Fari educativi” series. An English version of this volume was also produced, published in February 2022. A presentation of the volume was held in Università Cattolica on December 1, 2021.


In addition to this volume, two further publications were jointly produced by Francesco Bestagno and Marcella Ferri during the first year of the project: the article Tutela internazionale dei diritti umani e pensiero cattolico”, in “Costruire la democrazia. Prospettive educative e cristianesimo”, edited by A. Lo Presti, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2019, pp. 151-174; and the article The Right to Education in Europe, the Middle East and Africa”, in “Education as a Driver to Integral Growth and Peace. Ethical Reflections on the Right to Education”, edited by A. de La Rochefoucauld e C.M. Marenghi, nella collana “The Caritas in Veritate Foundation Working Papers”, 2019, pp. 49-60.


The training activities, after an opening seminar entitledIl futuro dell’Unione europea in una prospettiva interculturale: sfide e opportunità” (The future of the European Union in an intercultural perspective: challenges and opportunities), held by prof. Léonce Bekemans, former professor at the Collège d’Europe in Bruges and holder of a Jean Monnet Chair at the University of Padua, have been organized, in the a.a. 2020/2021,in the cycle of five seminarsLa libertà religiosa in un contesto multiculturale” (Religious freedom in a multicultural context), and in the seminar “Diritti sociali e confini: per una tutela oltre lo Stato” (Social rights and borders: for protection beyond the State); in the a.a. 2021/2022, in the cycle of three seminars La tutela dei diritti economici, sociali e culturali nel diritto internazionale" (The protection of economic, social and cultural rights in international law), n which the right to food and the right to education were studied in depth. Ugo Villani, emeritus of international law at the University of Bari, gave a concluding lectio on the project entitled “La protezione dei diritti umani nell’ambito multiculturale e la rilevanza della libertà religiosa” (The protection of human rights in the multicultural environment and the relevance of religious freedom).