RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 20, 2002 (Zenit.org).- A papal message points to beauty as a way for modern man to discover the truth of God.

"The brilliance of contemplated beauty opens the spirit to the mystery of God," Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, affirms in a message sent on behalf of John Paul II to the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples. The meeting is organized by the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation in this Adriatic coast city.

The weeklong event is attracting hundreds of thousands of people to 131 meetings and conferences, 23 performances and 16 artistic exhibitions on the theme "The Feeling of Things: Contemplating the Beauty."

"Beauty has its own pedagogical force to introduce knowledge of the truth effectively," the papal message says. "In fact, it leads to Christ, who is the Truth."

"Indeed, when love and the search for beauty spring from a dimension of faith, one can penetrate the depth of things and come into contact with the One who is the source of everything that is beautiful," the message states.

"In our time, it is frequently thought that truth, as such, is foreign to the realm of art," it continues. "So beauty relates only to feeling and represents a gentle evasion of the iron laws that govern the world. But is it like this?"

"It is evident that nature, things, people, are able to cause astonishment because of their beauty," the Pope states. "How is it possible not to see, for example, in a sunset in the mountains, in the immensity of the sea, in the features of a face something that is attractive and, at the same time, compels one to know more profoundly the reality that surrounds us?"

"Suffice it to think of the power of spiritual attraction exercised in an act of justice, a gesture of forgiveness, sacrifice for a great ideal lived with joy and generosity," the message explains.

It continues: "Truth is perceived in the beautiful, which attracts to itself through the unmistakable fascination that springs from great values. Thus feeling and reason find themselves radically united in an appeal addressed to the whole person. Reality, with its beauty, makes one feel the beginning of the fulfillment and seems to whisper to us: 'You will not be unhappy; the desire of your heart will be fulfilled, what is more, it is already being fulfilled.'"

The message goes on to explain that this is why in the Book of Wisdom the Bible reminds us that "from the greatness and beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen" (13:5).

The papal text ends by wishing that the Rimini meeting "will contribute to diffuse that way of looking at things as taught by Jesus. In this way, art can become an instrument of evangelization, helping to promote a renewed missionary season."