Friday, July 08, 2011

"To Make All Existence Beautiful and True": The Pope, on Art

Before departing for Castel and a nearly four-month summer break yesterday, the Pope met with a group of artists who provided the works for a unique Vatican exhibit marking last month's 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, going on to see their contributions for himself.

In the talk, B16 returned again to one of his favorite topics -- the relationship of truth and beauty -- a thread which, over his six-year pontificate, has most prominently been fleshed out on two prior occasions: in the pontiff's 2009 encounter with the World of Art, fittingly held in the Sistine Chapel, and his homily at last November's memorably vivid dedication of Antoni Gaudí's Barcelona masterpiece, the Basilica of Sagrada Familia... a moment which, as one close papal aide subsequently said, ranked among "the most joyful moments" of Benedict's life.

Having worked in a conspicuous reference to one of his more high-octane talks -- the famous "dictatorship of relativism" homily given on the eve of his own election to Peter's chair -- here's a snip of the Pope's latest remarks on art:

The Church and artists meet again, to talk with one another, to support the need for a conversation that is and must be ever more intense and articulated, also to offer to culture, more than that, to the cultures of our time, an eloquent example of fruitful and effective dialogue, oriented to making our world ever more human and beautiful. Today you present to me the fruit of your activity, of your reflection, of your talent, expressions of the different artistic realms that you represent here: painting, sculpture, architecture, craftsmanship, photography, cinema, music, literature and poetry.

Before admiring them with you, allow me to pause just a moment on the thought-provoking title of this exhibition: "The Splendor of Truth; the Beauty of Charity." In fact, in the homily of the Mass pro eligendo pontifice, commenting on the beautiful expression of St. Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians, veritatem facientes in caritate (4:15), I defined the "living of truth in charity," as a fundamental formula of Christian existence. And I added: "Truth and charity coincide in Christ. To the degree that we come close to Christ, in our life also truth and charity unite. Charity without truth would be blind: truth without charity would be like a 'clanging cymbal' (1 Corinthians 13:1)."

It is precisely from this union, I would like to say "symphony," from the perfect harmony of truth and charity, that genuine beauty springs, capable of awakening admiration, wonder and true joy in men's hearts. The world in which we live needs truth to shine and not be obfuscated by lies or banality; it needs charity to inflame it and not to be overcome by pride and selfishness. We need the beauty of truth and charity to reach the depth of our hearts and make them more human. Dear friends, I would like to renew to you and to all artists a friendly and passionate appeal: never separate artistic creativity from truth and charity; never seek beauty far from truth and charity, but with the richness of your genius, of your creative impulse, be always courageous seekers of truth and witnesses of charity. Make truth shine in your works so that their beauty awakens in the sights and hearts of those who admire them the desire to make their existence, all existence, beautiful and true, enriching it with that treasure that never diminishes, which makes of life a work of art and of every man an extraordinary artist: [the treasure of] charity, love.
May the holy Spirit, architect of all beauty that is in the world, enlighten you always and guide you to the ultimate and definitive Beauty, the one which inflames our minds and hearts, and which we hope to be able to contemplate one day in all its splendor. Once again, thank you for your friendship, for your presence and for taking to the world a ray of this Beauty which is God.
PHOTOS: L'Osservatore Romano/Pool