The Holy See
back up
Search
riga


DISCOURSE TO THE PLENARY ASSEMBLY 
OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR CULTURE

 

Your Eminences,
Dear Friends,

1. I receive you with joy and extend my greetings of welcome. I am happy to greet you and to express my appreciation for your dedication to the Church and her mission of evangelization. I thank you for the expertise which you put at the service of the Holy See, under the leadership of Cardinal Paul Poupard, together with Cardinals Eugenio de Arujo Sales and Hyacinthe Thiandoum of the Executive Committee, helped by collaborators who guarantee quality work here in Rome. Some months from now, the Pontifical Council for Culture, one of the newest dicasteries of the Roman Curia, will celebrate its 10th anniversary. During this first decade, you have shown through your work that culture is a constitutive element of the life of Christian communities, as of every society that is truly human. Following the guidelines given on 20 May 1982 in the Letter of foundation, which were confirmed in the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus (articles 166-168), here you are, freely engaged in reflection and in action.

2. You have progressively developed a fruitful collaboration with the different dicasteries of the Roman Curia and with many organizations, such as the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. I wish that your collaboration with the local Churches will intensify in order to promote appropriate initiatives to spur on the evangelization of culture and the inculturation of the faith. Your bulletin, "Church and Cultures", radiates the light of the numerous and varied accomplishments of international importance that you have attained. You collaborate with international Catholic organizations, with Unesco and with the Council of Europe. You have participated in numerous exhibitions - and have also sponsored some - and have developed expert reflections on the means of social communication, the arts, publications, Catholic universities, the role of women in cultural development, the inculturation of the faith in Africa and Asia, the evangelization of America and the building of the new Europe.

3. For several years a new Europe has been taking shape, through darkness and light, through joy and pain. The collapse of ideological and authoritarian walls has caused joy and a reawakening of great hope, but already other walls once again divide the continent. Because of this, I am grateful to you for having organized, at my request and in preparation for the Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops, the pre-Synodal Symposium, Christianity and Culture in Europe: Cultural Memory, Present Consciousness, Future Projects. You have helped the Bishops, and with them the entire Church, to revive our Christian memory of the millennia and to better discern the cultural foundations for the rebirth of a spiritually reunited Europe, in which we want to be «witnesses of Christ who has set us free» (cf. Gal 5:1).

On the eve of the Third Millennium, the apostolic mission of the Church commits her to a new evangelization in which culture assumes fundamental importance. This was underlined by the Fathers of the recent Synod: the number of Christians is increasing, but at the same time, the pressures of a culture without spiritual roots is growing. De-christianization has generated societies which lack a reference to God. The demise of atheistic Marxism-Leninism, the system of political totalitarianism in Europe, is far from resolving the tragedies that this system has caused in the last 75 years. How many have been affected in one way or another by this totalitarian system: its leaders, its supporters, as well as its staunch adversaries, have become its victims. Those who sacrificed their families, their energy and their dignity for a communist utopia are beginning to realize they have been dragged into a lie that has very deeply hurt human nature. Others have found freedom, for which they have not been prepared, and the use of this freedom remains hypothetical, since they live in precarious political, social and economic conditions and are experiencing a confused cultural situation, with a violent reawakening of nationalist rivalry.

At the conclusion of the Pre-Synodal Symposium you asked: To what and to whom will those whose utopian hopes have recently disappeared turn? The spiritual void that threatens society is above all a cultural void and it is the moral conscience, renewed by the Gospel of Christ, which can truly fill it. Only then, in creative fidelity to its own heritage bequeathed by the past and ever alive, will Europe be able to face the future with plans that will be a real encounter between the Word of Life and culture in search of love and truth for the human person. I take the opportunity which has been offered me today to express again to all those who helped organize this Symposium my gratitude for their collaboration in the Synod's work.

4. 1992 marks the fifth centenary of the evangelization of America. I have especially wanted "Christian culture" to be one of the major focal points of this anniversary, in which the Church will truly proclaim the Gospel of Christ to people, to the extent that she speaks to each person in his culture and that the faith of Christians shows its ability to enrich developing cultures, bearers of hope for the future. Nearly half the world's Catholics are in Latin America. The challenge of the new evangelization is very closely linked to a renewed dialogue between culture and faith. For this reason, the Pontifical Council for Culture, together with CELAM, will continue to offer its experience to Episcopal Conferences that request help along these lines.

5. The forthcoming Synod of Bishops for Africa will give central importance to the great challenge of implanting the Gospel in African cultures. Already the preparatory documents are very closely studying the relationship between evangelization and inculturation. For more than a century missionaries have generously given their energy and have often even sacrificed their lives so that the saving Gospel might reach Africa at the very heart of its being. Inculturation is a slow process that covers all the dimensions of missionary life. An overall look at humanity shows us that this mission is still in its initial phase and that we must devote all our efforts to its service (cf Redemptoris missio, ns. 52 and 1). On the eve of this Synod, threatened by syncretism and sects, the Churches of Africa will find a new impulse to proclaim the Gospel and to accept it through their culture, within the framework of catechesis, the formation of priests and catechists, liturgy and the life of Christian communities. All this needs time: every process of authentic inculturation of the faith is an act of «tradition», which must find its inspiration and its norms in the one Tradition. This presupposes a theological and anthropological study of the message of redemption and at the same time a living and irreplaceable witness of Christian communities which are happy to share their ardent love for Christ.

6. An urgent task awaits you: to re-establish the bonds which have been strained and sometimes broken between the cultural values of our time and their lasting, Christian foundation. The political changes, the economic upheavals and the cultural changes have contributed greatly to this painful but clear moral awakening. After decades of totalitarian oppression men and women offer agonizing witness: it is to their moral conscience, guardian of their deepest identity, that they owe their personal survival. Today there are many young and not so young people in industrialized nations who in every way cry out their discontent that what they "have" suffocates what they "are", while many others do not «have» what they need merely "to be". Everywhere people are demanding respect for their culture and their right to a fully human life. It is therefore through culture that the saying of Pascal is verified "Man surpasses man, infinitely".

7. A new cultural situation results especially from the development of science and technology. Aware of the renewed reflection that this demands from the Church, you are the inspiration for a Symposium in Tokyo on the theme, "Science, technology and spiritual values. An Asian approach to modernization"; and another right here in the Vatican in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the theme, "Science in the context of human culture". The fragmentation of knowledge, as well as its technological application, makes it more difficult to see the human person organically and harmoniously in his ontological unity. The Church is no stranger to scientific culture; rather, she rejoices at discoveries and technology which help improve the conditions and quality of life of our contemporaries. The Church tirelessly recalls the unique character and the dignity of the human being against every temptation to abuse the power that technological progress offers. I hope that you will continue the dialogue that was begun in recent years with the representatives of scientific culture, the exact sciences and the behavioural sciences. Scientific and technological progress calls for a renewed conscience and moral commitment at the heart of culture to make it more human, so that people of every culture can equitably benefit from it, in a lasting search for solidarity.

8. The fundamental aspirations of man are laden with meaning. They express in various and sometimes confusing ways the vocation "to be" written by God in the heart of every person. Amid the uncertainties and anxiety of our time, your mission calls you to offer the best of yourselves to develop an authentic culture of hope, founded on the revelation and salvation of Jesus Christ. Freedom is fully exercised only through the acceptance of the truth and love which God offers to every person. For Christians this is an immense challenge to witness to the love of Jesus Christ who has set us free, the source and the fulfilment of every culture.

9. The challenge of the 21st century is to humanize society and its institutions through the Gospel; to restore to the family, to cities and to villages a soul worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. The Church can count on men and women of culture to help peoples rediscover their memory, to revive their consciences and to prepare their future. The Christian leaven will enrich living cultures and their values and bring them to full flower. In this way, hearts will be penetrated and cultures renewed by Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6) who "has brought complete newness by bringing himself", as Irenaeus of Lyons wrote (Adv. Haer., IV, 34, I). This shows the importance of education and the need for teachers who are authentic educators. This also means that Christian researchers and scholars are necessary, whose scientific ability is recognized and appreciated, in order to give meaning to the discoveries of science and the inventions of technology. The world has need of priests, religious and laity who are seriously formed by the knowledge of the Church's doctrinal heritage, rich in its bimillennary cultural patrimony, an ever fruitful source for artists and poets who are able to help the people of God to live the inexhaustible mystery of Christ, celebrated in beauty, meditated in prayer and incarnated in holiness.

10. Your Eminences, dear friends, may this meeting with the Successor of Peter confirm you in the awareness of your mission. Culture is of man, by man and for man. The vocation of the Pontifical Council for Culture, your vocation, in this turn of the century and of the millennium, is that of creating a new culture of love and of hope inspired by the truth that frees us in Christ Jesus. This is the goal of inculturation, this is the priority for the new evangelization. The rooting of the Gospel within cultures is a requirement for missionary activity, as I recently recalled in the Encyclical Redemptoris missio. Be its authentic artisans in deep communion with the Holy See and with the entire Church, within the local Churches, under the guidance of their Pastors.

With my warm greetings to you and your loved ones, I assure you of my gratitude and my prayers for the fruitfulness of your work. As a sign of my affection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing

10 January 1992

top