Pope Sees Art as Instrument of New Evangelization
Meets with Commission for the Cultural Goods of the Church
John Paul II said the Church must use its artistic patrimony as a decisive means of evangelization, and he suggested ways to do it.
The Pope made this proposal Saturday when he met with members of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Goods of the Church, which held its plenary assembly here.
"The Church has always believed that, in a certain sense, the infinite beauty of God is reflected in the different expressions of art, which direct the mind, so to speak, toward him," the Holy Father said.
Quoting the Second Vatican Council, John Paul II said that art enables "knowledge of God to be manifested in a better way and the preaching of the Gospel to be more transparent to the intelligence of men."
This fact is particularly necessary in a globalized society, because "ecclesiastical cultural riches constitute a favorable terrain for the fruitful exchange among cultures," he added. The topic of the commission's assembly was "Cultural Riches for Territorial Identity and Artistic-Cultural Dialogue Among Peoples."
In order to understand Christian art, the Pope said, its "aesthetic end" must not be separated from "the religious end pursued" by these works.
As an example, the Pope said that a "sacred building attains its aesthetic perfection specifically during the celebration of the divine mysteries, given that precisely at that moment its most authentic meaning shines forth."
The pontifical commission presides over the guardianship of the historical and artistic patrimony of the Church, including works of art, historical documents, books and items kept in museums, libraries and archives. It also collaborates in the conservation of this patrimony with the individual Churches and their respective episcopal organizations.
(Check out the collection at the National Gallery of Art by clicking on this link and then selecting religious themes. You'll find a treasure trove of images for you to view on your computer that can be expanded to full screen.)