VATICAN CITY, MARCH 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Church faces the challenge of understanding how beauty can be a “way of evangelization and dialogue,” says the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Members and consultors of this Vatican dicastery addressed this topic during their two-day plenary assembly, focusing on three questions: “the beauty of nature, the beauty of art and the beauty of Christian holiness.”
Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and recently named president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, presented the conclusions at the end of the assembly today.
The topic of beauty, he said, is decisive “to address the cultural situation in which we find ourselves, in particular, the crucial challenge of secularization that, from the West, extends across a world” that lives as “if God didn’t exist.”
The cardinal, 75, said at the meeting that “the way of beauty has a long tradition in the Church.” Yet he acknowledged that “today it must be rediscovered, as it is often forgotten and at times even combated, because it is misunderstood.”
“The Church can only propose the Gospel message in all its beauty, which is capable of attracting spirits and hearts, offering through its pastors and faithful the testimony of integrity of life and of clarity of the message they reflect,” said the cardinal when presenting one of the principal conclusions.
In fact, he added, “the examination of the challenge of sects has brought to light the disastrous consequences of the anti-testimonies given by priests and laymen whose daily life is in contradiction of the Gospel message, and in this way their lack of spirituality darkens the clarity and splendor of grace.”
The participants acknowledged that the prevailing hedonism darkens, particularly in young people, the perception of genuine beauty.
Cardinal Poupard contended, therefore, that it is necessary to help our contemporaries “to escape from the nets of exterior appearance and find their deepest self again.”
Given that the liturgy is a privileged place of encounter with the Church, Cardinal Poupard warned about the danger of “liturgical clericalism” by which, “instead of leading to the mystery of Christ, the priest appears only as the movie director,” transforming “ceremonies into shows that have nothing to do with the beauty of the mystery of faith.”
The cardinal concluded that “holiness of life is the best reflector of divine beauty,” and stressed “the urgency of a profound renewal in the Church through the search for a genuine culture of holiness.”