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Pope: Beauty, Truth and Goodness

November 27th, 2008
Vatican Information Service ()

We are reminded of the urgent need for a renewed dialogue between aesthetics and ethics, between beauty, truth and goodness.

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - Benedict XVI has sent a Message to Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, to mark the annual public session of the Pontifical Academies. The Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts and Literature "dei Virtuosi al Pantheon", which is organising the event this year, has chosen the theme: "The universality of beauty: a comparison between aesthetics and ethics".

"We are reminded of the urgent need for a renewed dialogue between aesthetics and ethics, between beauty, truth and goodness", the Pope writes, "not only by contemporary cultural and artistic debate, but also by daily reality. In fact, at various levels, there is a dramatically-evident split ... between the two dimensions: that of the search for beauty - understood however in reductive terms as exterior form, as an appearance to be pursued at all costs - and that of the truth and goodness of actions undertaken to achieve certain ends.

"Indeed", he adds, "searching for a beauty that is foreign to or separate from the human search for truth and goodness would become (as unfortunately happens) mere asceticism and, especially for the very young, a path leading to ephemeral values and to banal and superficial appearances, even a flight into an artificial paradise that masks inner emptiness".

The Holy Father goes on to recall how he has on various occasions underlined the need "for a broadening of the horizons of reason" in order "to regain an understanding of the intimate link binding the search for beauty to the search for truth and goodness. ... And it such a commitment applies to everyone, it applies even more to believers, to the disciples of Christ, who are called by the Lord to 'give reasons' for all the beauty and truth of their faith".

The beauty of the works undertaken by believers "to render glory unto the Father", in accordance with Christ's mandate, "demonstrates and expresses ... the goodness and profound truth of such gestures, as it does the coherence and the sanctity of those who accomplish them. ... Our witness must, then, draw nourishment from this beauty, ... and to this end we must know how to communicate with the language of images and symbols ... in order effectively to reach our contemporaries".

Benedict XVI also mentions the recent Synod, during which bishops "emphasised the perennial importance 'beautiful witness' has for the announcement of the Gospel, and underlined how important it is to know how to read and scrutinise the beauty of works of art inspired by the faith ... in order to discover a unique path that brings us close to God and His Word".

Finally, the Holy Father mentions John Paul II's Letter to Artists, "which invites us", writes Pope Benedict "to reflect upon ... the fruitful dialogue between Holy Scripture and various forms of art, whence countless masterpieces have emerged". Finally, the Pope launches an appeal to academics and artists, reminding them that their mission is "to arouse wonder at and desire for beauty, to form people's sensitivity and to nourish a passion for everything that is a genuine expression of human genius and a reflection of divine beauty".

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