Cardinal Ratzinger Links Beauty and Faith

Warns of Advertising’s Use of Images

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RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 21, 2002 ( People of today will believe if they rediscover authentic beauty, says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger says.

In a message published today, the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said: «For faith to grow today, we ourselves must take the men and women we encounter to enter into contact with beauty.»

The German cardinal’s message was read at the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples being held in Rimini this week. The meeting, organized by the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation, has attracted hundreds of thousands of people.

Commenting on the meeting’s theme, «The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty,» Cardinal Ratzinger said: «Today the message of beauty is cast into doubt because of the power of falsehood, which makes use of various stratagems.»

«One of these is to promote beauty that does not awaken nostalgia of the ineffable, but rather promotes the will to possess,» he said.

«Who would not recognize, for example, those images in advertising that are thought out with extraordinary ability to tempt man irresistibly to possess something and to look for momentary satisfaction?» the cardinal asked.

Christian art today is placed between two fires, he continued: «It must oppose the cult of the ugly, according to which all beauty is deceitful, and must confront mendacious beauty that makes man smaller.»

The text then quotes a phrase of Feodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) — «Beauty will save us» — in which the Russian writer refers to the redeeming beauty of Jesus Christ.

«Whoever believes in God, who manifested himself in fact in the face of Christ crucified as ‘love to the end,’ knows that beauty is truth and that truth is beauty,» Cardinal Ratzinger stated. «But in the suffering Christ he also learns that the beauty of truth understands the offense, the pain and the dark mystery of death.»

In this way, he knows that beauty «can only be found in the acceptance of pain and not in ignoring it.»

«In all the atrocities of history, a merely harmonious concept of beauty is not sufficient,» the cardinal wrote.

«In fact, in Christ’s passion the Greek aesthetic — so worthy of admiration — is surpassed. Since then, the experience of beauty has received a new depth and a new realism,» the German cardinal clarified.

«He who is beauty itself has allowed his face to be struck, spat upon, crowned with thorns — the holy Shroud of Turin can make us imagine everything in an overwhelming way,» the cardinal continued.

«But precisely in this face — so disfigured — authentic beauty appears: the beauty of love that goes ‘to the end’ and that reveals itself stronger than falsehood and violence,» he said. «We must learn to see him. If we are struck by the dart of his paradoxical beauty, then we will really know him.»

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