Rome Rediscovers French Writer Chateaubriand

Defended Catholicism in Wake of the Revolution

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ROME, JUNE 15, 2003 ( A writer who aimed to restore luster to Catholicism after the French Revolution is being rediscovered.

An exhibition dedicated to François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) opened here recently. «Chateaubriand in Rome: 1803-2003» includes 76 objects that will be on display until July 11 at the Primoli Foundation.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, inaugurated the exhibition, pointing out its importance «at a special moment of change such as ours, for rediscovering the message of Chateaubriand.»

The Frenchman wrote «The Genius of Christianity, or Beauties of the Christian Religion» in 1802, in defense of a Catholicism that had been battered by the revolution.

In his work, Chateaubriand expresses how religion — understood as Catholicism — is a reasoned faith whose objective is salvation.

The author’s thesis is that the Gospel helps to overcome class divisions. He appealed for what he called «evangelical equality.» His work mixes moral, aesthetic and emotional aspects.

The 1803 revised edition was dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, with whom Chateaubriand shared the intuition of the need for religion, although the author had a more intimate and radical view of religion than the French leader.

Massimo Colesanti, president of the Primoli Foundation, noted the «freshness and truth» contained in the pages of the author’s great work.

Pierre Morel, French ambassador to the Vatican, recalled «the diplomatic facet» of his predecessor (Chateaubriand was ambassador in Rome in 1829) and highlighted the author’s view of mystery and transcendence.

Jean-Paul Clement, director of the Maison de Chateaubriand in La Vallée-aux-Loups, France, said that for the author it was necessary «to re-establish tradition and the idea of enduring history,» values swept away by the French Revolution.

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