Pope's Address to Members of Culture Council

«A Christian Life Lived to the Full Speaks For Itself»

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving in audience participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council of Culture, which took place last week in Rome.

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Lord Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters!

I am delighted to meet with you at the conclusion of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, in the course of which you have delved into the topic: «Culture of Communication and New Languages.» I thank the president, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, for his kind words and I greet all the participants, grateful for the contribution offered to the study of such a topic, very relevant to the mission of the Church. Discussing communication and language, in fact, does not mean just touching on one of the crucial intersections of our world and its cultures, but for us believers it means drawing near to the mystery itself of God who, in his goodness and wisdom, willed to reveal himself and manifest his will to men (Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution «Dei Verbum,» No. 2). In Christ, in fact, God revealed himself to us as Logos, who communicates and calls us, establishing the relationship that founds our identity and dignity as human persons, loved like sons by the one Father (cf. postsynodal apostolic exhortation «Verbum Domini,» Nos. 22-23). Communication and language are also essential dimensions of human culture, constituted by information and concepts, by beliefs and ways of life, but also by rules, without which people could only progress in their humanity and sociality with difficulty. I appreciated the original choice of inaugurating the plenary meeting in the Sala della Protomoteca at the Campidoglio, the civil and institutional heart of Rome, with a roundtable discussion on the theme: «In the City Listening to the Languages of the Soul.» In this way the dicastery intended to express one of its essential tasks: listening to the men and women of our time to promote new occasions for the proclamation of the Gospel

Listening, then, to the voices of the globalized world, we realize that a profound cultural transformation is under way, with new languages and new forms of communication, which favor new and problematic anthropological models.
In this context, pastors and the faithful notice with concern certain difficulties in the communication of the evangelical message and the transmission of the faith within the ecclesial community itself. As I wrote in the postsynodal apostolic exhortation «Verbum Domini»: «A great many Christians who need to have the word of God once more persuasively proclaimed to them, so that they can concretely experience the power of the Gospel» (No. 96). The problems seem sometimes to grow when the Church addresses men and women who are distant from or indifferent to an experience of faith, whom the evangelical message reaches in a way that has little effectiveness or attractiveness. In a world that makes communication the winning strategy, the Church, recipient of the mission to communicate to all the nations the Gospel of salvation, does not remain indifferent and foreign; she tries, on the contrary, to avail herself — with renewed creative effort, but also with critical sense and attentive discernment — of the new languages and new modalities of communication.

The incapacity of language to communicate the profound meaning and beauty of the experience of faith can contribute to the indifference of many, above all young people; it can become a motive for estrangement, as the constitution «Gaudium et Spes» already affirmed, stressing that an inadequate presentation of the message can conceal more than it reveals of the genuine face of God and religion (cf. No. 19). The Church wants to dialogue with everyone in the pursuit of truth, but in order for that dialogue and communication to be effective and fruitful, it is necessary to be on the same frequency, in friendly and sincere environments, in that ideal «Court of the Gentiles» that I proposed while speaking to the Roman Curia a year ago, and that the dicastery is establishing in different emblematic places of European culture. Today not a few young people, deafened by the infinite possibilities offered by information networks or other technologies, maintain forms of communication that do not contribute to maturation in humanity, but rather threaten to increase the sense of solitude and forlornness. In the face of such phenomena, I have spoken many times of the educational crisis, a challenge to which we can and must respond with creative intelligence, committing ourselves to promoting a communication that is humanizing, and that stimulates the critical sense and the capacity to evaluate and discern.

In the technological culture of today, the Gospel is the guide and the permanent paradigm of inculturation, purifying, healing and elevating the better elements of the new languages and new forms of communication. For this difficult and fascinating task, the Church can draw on the extraordinary patrimony of symbols, images, rites and gestures of her tradition. In particular, the rich and dense symbolism of the liturgy must shine forth in all its power as a communicative element, to the point of deeply touching the human conscience, heart and intellect. The Christian tradition has always been closely linked to the liturgy and to the language of art, the beauty of which has its special communicative power.

We also experienced this last Sunday, in Barcelona, at the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, the work of Antoni Gaudí, who brought together, in a genial way, the liturgy’s sense of the sacred with artistic forms that are as modern as they are in harmony with the best of the architectural traditions. Nevertheless, more incisive still than art and images in the communication of the evangelical message is the beauty of the Christian life. In the end, love alone is worthy of faith and is credible. The lives of the saints and martyrs reveal a singular beauty that fascinates and attracts, because a Christian life lived to the full speaks for itself. We need men and women who speak with their lives, who know how to communicate the Gospel, with clarity and courage, with the transparency of their actions, with the passionate joy of charity.

After having been a pilgrim at Santiago de Compostela and having admired in thousands of persons, young people above all, the convincing power of testimony, of the joy of setting out on a journey toward truth and beauty, I hope that many of our contemporaries can say, hearing the Lord’s voice again, like the disciples of Emmaus: «Did our hearts not burn within us as he spoke to us on the way?» (Luke 24:32). Dear friends, I thank you for what you do daily with competence and dedication and, as I entrust you to Mary Most Holy, from my heart I impart to all the apostolic blessing.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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