The World Needs Beauty, Says Pope

Affirms That Art Can Be a Spiritual Path

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2009 ( The world needs authentic beauty, Benedict XVI is affirming, and artists have the responsibility of bringing it to people through their art.

The Pope affirmed this Saturday during an audience held in the Sistine Chapel with some 250 artists of various countries, cultures and religions. The group included singers, musicians, writers, painters, architects, sculptors, actors and film producers.

The event was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists, and the 45th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s similar meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel.

Benedict XVI affirmed «the Church’s friendship with the world of art, a friendship that has been strengthened over time.»

«Christianity from its earliest days has recognized the value of the arts and has made wise use of their varied language to express her unvarying message of salvation,» he added.

The reason for this meeting, the Pope said, is to help this friendship «be continually promoted and supported so that it may be authentic and fruitful, adapted to different historical periods and attentive to social and cultural variations.»

«Dear friends,» he said, «as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness.»

The Pontiff continued, «The experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.»

Shock value

He explained that «an essential function of genuine beauty» is «that it gives man a healthy ‘shock,’ it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum.»

In this, the Holy Father observed, it may even make him suffer, «piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it ‘reawakens’ him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft.»

«Beauty pulls us up short, but in so doing it reminds us of our final destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills us with new hope, gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life,» he affirmed.

Benedict XVI added, «The quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.»

He affirmed: «Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy.

«It is a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will to power, to possess, and to dominate others, it is a beauty which soon turns into its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or gratuitous provocation.»

On the contrary, the Pope said, authentic beauty «unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.»

«If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately,» he said, «that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it every day.»


The Pontiff continued, «Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God.»

Thus, art in all its forms «can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality,» he said.

The Holy Father encouraged the artists, «You are the custodians of beauty.»

He continued: «Thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement.

«Be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty!

«Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity!»

Benedict XVI urged his listeners to «not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty!»

«Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art,» he said. «On the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful.»

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