VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II delivered on Saturday to ambassadors of several countries accredited to UNESCO. Part of the address was in English, part in French.
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1. With affection I greet you, ambassadors of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, as you come to the Vatican, and I thank you, Ambassador Omolewa, for the kind sentiments you expressed. I hope that your visit to the Eternal City will enrich and renew you in your efforts to protect and promote authentic educational, scientific and cultural progress.
The advancement of human society is directly related to the progress of culture. In reality culture is a specific way of “living” and “being” for mankind and, at the same time, it forms a bond which determines the unique character of man’s social existence. Mankind, in fact, lives a truly human life because of culture, an important expression of which is found in the arts and sciences.
2. The Church has always been the friend of the arts and sciences. In fact, the world’s artistic heritage is a treasure of human creativity; it offers an eloquent testimony of the intelligence of humanity, which participates in the work of the divine Creator. The Church has constantly appealed to the fine arts to assist it in celebrating the gift of life and, very especially, its sacred rites in a worthy, just and beautiful manner.
In so doing, she has helped to develop an incomparable heritage of music, art and literature, which represents a significant contribution to the progress of culture. Moreover, the Church has encouraged the development of the sciences, especially in her promotion of the dignity and value of human life.
3. This commitment is expressed concretely through the creation of numerous institutions such as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which recently celebrated its fourth centenary, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Unfortunately, in these difficult times, we often find our progress threatened by the evils of war, poverty, racism and the exploitation of others. These harmful influences not only weigh on our human existence but they also hinder our capacity to build a better world.
4. I pray that organizations such as UNESCO will remain an essential element in the construction of a true culture based on peace, justice, and equity.
Wishing you the very best in the pursuit of your mission, I invoke on you and on your colleagues an abundance of divine blessings.
[Translation of the French by ZENIT]