Religious education as a contribution to overcoming contingency and promoting empathy


  • Hans Mendl Chair of Religious Education and Didactics of Religious Education Department for Catholic Theology, University of Passau


contingency, empathy, digitization, spirituality, religious education


The corona pandemic reveals the limitations of humans and societies in several ways: It leads to interruption, uncertainty, and a sense of the finiteness of existence. The myth of unchecked growth has developed massive cracks. Experience after a year of intensive efforts to digitize educational processes shows that digital education has its limits in the context of religious learning. Central dimensions of human existence require learning formats that enable an engagement with the real world and with face-to-face communication. “The longing of the soul cannot be appeased by much knowledge, but by the sense and relish of inward things,” writes Ignatius von Loyola. Spirituality and education are therefore dependent on intensive forms of encountering the world, fellow human beings, self and God. Empathy, dealing with limit-experiences, a sense of responsibility and solidarity can be learned first in reality, on site. This also applies to the ability to perceive the consequences of migration and to cope with them in the sense of global Christians’ responsibility for the world and creation (“Go to the borders…” Pope Francis). Mercy and compassion are based on the ability to perceive the suffering fellow human being and the suf- fering creation. Based on these postulates, indispensable principles for religious education can be determined today: decelerating and mantaining a slower pace, sensibility, physicality, movement, alert world perception and empathy are the characteristics of such a contingencysensitive religious education.