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On the weekend of 7-9 April 1995, St Patrick's College, Maynooth, Ireland, held a Bicentenary Conference on "Faith and Culture: Chaos and Creation". Here are printed the introduction of Bishop Murray and the discourse given by Cardinal Poupard. A further account of the occasion appears in the Notitiae section.

Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin


We have come to the final session of our conference on Chaos and Creation. We have had many indications that the conjunction "and" is the appropriate one. The question is not whether the world is chaotic or ordered but rather how chaos and creation, unpredictability and order, are related.

Science presents us with ever deeper insights and ever more profound questions about the ordered chaos, the beautiful unpredictability, the continually surprising patterns of the universe. It stretches our vision and yet, paradoxically, we seem less ready than previous generations to accept that the answer to the question of what it all means is something which eye has not seen nor ear heard.

As I listened to the contributions and discussions yesterday I recalled a passage written by William James, brother of the novelist, Henry James. William was a multi-disciplinary figure. As a Harvard professor, he lectured at various times in physiology, psychology and finally philosophy.

The passage describes his reaction to a week he spent in an idyllic holiday resort in New York State. It was a place with everything laid on. More to the point, it could be described as a world without chaos -- "without a sin, without a victim, without a blot, without a tear": «And yet what was my own astonishment on emerging into the dark and wicked world again, to catch myself quite unexpectedly and involuntarily saying: "Ouf! what a relief! Now for something primordial and savage, even though it were as bad as an Armenian massacre, to set the balance right again. This order is too tame, this culture is too second-rate, this goodness too uninspiring. This human drama without a villain or a pang, this community so refined that ice-cream and soda water is the utmost offering it can make to the brute animal in man; this city shimmering in the tepid lakeside sun, this atrocious harmlessness of all things -- I cannot abide with them. Let me take my chances again in the big outside worldly wilderness with all its sins and sufferings. There are the heights and the depths, the precipices and the steep ideals, the gleams of the awful and the infinite; and there is more hope and help a thousand times than in this dead level and quintessence of every mediocrity"» (What Makes Life Significant? [1899] in Essays in Faith and Morals, Meridian Books, Cleveland & New York, 1962, pp. 280, 289).

A world without chaos is a world with no place for the heights and the depths, the gleams of the awful and the infinite. A world which was too perfect might disguise the fundamental questions and leave no incentive to seek for God.

That leads us on to the topic of our final lecture: Creation, Faith and Culture. In the end culture is not so much about our response to the quintessence of mediocrity as about how we deal with most profound questions of life and death and meaning. Although culture affects all of life, these are the prompts that awaken the question of culture. They are the questions that define what one of our speakers called "the human moment".

Arthur Koestler was mentioned yesterday. A similar insight is found in his book The Act of Creation, his study of creative human moments as they occur in the different dimensions of art and science and humour. Creativity requires what he calls: "the Tragic Plane": «The ordinary mortal in our urban civilization moves virtually all his life on the Trivial Plane; only on a few occasions - during the storms of puberty, when he is in love or in the presence of death - does he suddenly fall through the manhole and is transferred to the Tragic Plane. Then all at once the pursuits of his daily routines appear as shallow, trifling vanities, but once safely back on the Trivial Plane, he dismisses the realities of the other as the products of overstrung nerves or adolescent effusions» (The Act of Creation, Pan, 1984, p. 365).

Life on the Trivial Plane is rather like the harmlessness of life in James's holiday resort, it is like the complacency which the artistic break-through or the scientific discovery shatters. It is "a state of unnoticed confinement". Creativity occurs, not on the Tragic Plane or on the Trivial Plane alone. It occurs where they intersect. «Where the Tragic and Trivial Planes meet, the Absolute becomes humanized, drawn into the orbit of man, while the banal objects of daily experience are transfigured, surrounded by a halo as it were... The locus in quo of human creativity is always on the line of intersection between two planes; and in the highest form of creativity between the Tragic or Absolute and the Trivial Plane» (loc. cit., pp. 366, 367).

At the heart of every culture, Pope John Paul II has said, lies the attitude that human beings take to the greatest mystery, the mystery of God: «Different cultures are basically different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence» (Centesimus annus 24). A culture which possesses no common language in which to answer, or at least to ask, that question is a culture in disintegration. Contemporary western culture may well be in such a state.

The answer cannot be a superficial one, which is why the Pope in his latest encyclical, Evangelium vitae, talks of the need for what he calls a contemplative outlook. This, he says, «is the outlook of those who see life in its deeper meaning, who grasp its utter gratuitousness, its beauty and its invitation to freedom and responsibility. It is the outlook of those who do not presume to make possession of reality but instead accept it as a gift, discovering in all things the reflection of the Creator and seeing in every person his living image. This outlook does not give in to discouragement when confronted by those who are sick, suffering, outcast or at death's door instead, in all these situations it feels challenged to find meaning, and precisely in these circumstances it is open to perceiving in the face of every person a call to encounter, dialogue and solidarity» (Evangelium vitae, 83).

This brings us directly into the dialogue of faith and culture. It is the question that arose several times yesterday. If all meaning is simply the construct of our minds, then it cannot provide an answer to these deepest human questions. These are not just questions a human being asks, they are questions a human being is. We are the question not the answer. But if ultimate meaning, the final answer, is found in the creative act and the loving approach of God, then the dialogue of faith and culture is crucial both for faith and for culture.

We are very fortunate and privileged to have as our final speaker Cardinal Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture which was given by Pope John Paul the tasks of promoting dialogue between the Gospel and culture; of concerning itself with the pastoral problems caused by the division between Gospel and culture; of asking initiatives to promote dialogue with culture and with nonbelievers.

The Pontifical Council has organised or participated in colloquia and seminars in many parts of the world. An illustration of the spread of these may be indicated by listing the principal ones that took place in the years 1991-1992: Unbelief and Religious Indifference (Ottawa); Democracy and Moral Values (Moscow); Religious Indifference in Latin America (Costa Rica); Religion and the Arts (New York); Faith and Freedom in the Europe of the 90s (Madrid); The new Religious Liberty in the East and Liberalism in the West (Prague).

The Pontifical Council also produces an excellent review, Cultures and Faith, which is by no means as well known in this part of the world as it should be.

During the Cardinal's time as President the Council itself has discussed such issues as Science and Non Belief; Secular Ethics and Non Belief; Ideologies, Mentalities and Christian Faith; The Quest for Happiness and Christian Faith; Speaking of God Today. It is now preparing for a meeting in 1997 under the title, Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture.

As you can see, Cardinal Poupard brings a rich experience and background to his subject. I have great pleasure in inviting him now to address us.


Mgr Donal Murray , présentant le Cardinal Poupard au Symposium de Maynooth, mentionne diverses activités du Conseil Pontifical de la Culture. Il insiste également sur l'interaction entre chaos et ordre dans l'univers, soulignant combien l'expérience du désordre stimule la quête de Dieu par delà les facilités d'une existence quelconque. Seule une perspective contemplative peut assurer une ouverture permanente au large éventail de questions sur foi et culture.


Mons. Donal Murray introduciendo al Cardenal Poupard en el Simposio de Maynooth, menciona algunas de las actividades del Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura. Igualmente enfatizó la interacción entre caos y orden en el universo, manifestando que la experiencia del desorden provoca una iniciativa para buscar a Dios más allá del nivel de una vida trivial. Sólo con una mirada contemplativa se puede permanecer abierto a los amplios interrogantes de la fe y la cultura.



Introduction: the Sistine Chapel

Exactly a year ago yesterday, I had the privilege of taking part in a unique occasion about which you will surely have heard: the first Mass in the fully restored Sistine Chapel. It will remain one of the great memories of my life, to be able to see afresh the work of Michelangelo in its full majesty. Immediately above me I could see the meeting of the two hands, the hand of God giving, and the hand of Adam receiving. Dominating the fresco over the altar was the figure of the Christ of Judgement, again with a hand raised in power.

My theme today is "Creation, culture and faith", and those three words take flesh as I recall the Sistine Chapel. There you see "creation" in two senses, the fundamental truth that we are called into existence by God, and the companion truth that we are all called to human greatness, capable of sharing the creativity which is embodied so supremely in that chapel. Such spiritual creativity is at the root of what we understand by "culture", and throughout the ages culture and faith have walked hand in hand, a union symbolized in that master work of Michelangelo.

The Biblical Vision as a Perspective on Culture

I propose in this first part of my lecture to reflect on the Biblical picture of Creation in the light of the concerns of this symposium. My hope is to highlight certain dimensions of creation theology in order to discern foundations for the field of faith and culture today. Later I will pause on some themes of relevance for the contemporary dialogue between religion and culture.

From the Old Testament vision of creation I single out four aspects, because of the light they can cast on the relationship between faith and culture:

1. the unique transcendence of the Creator,

2. the goodness of creation itself,

3. creation as an act of freedom and love,

4. and how creation continues in a dialogue of freedoms.

Transcendence of the Creator

Chesterton has a typically provocative statement that "creation was the greatest of all revolutions" - because it moves from nothing to everything that we know (G. K. Chesterton, Chaucer, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1956, p. 27). In this sense many ancient cultures developed stories of origin, seeking to imagine Creation in different ways. A sense of some divine creation is not unique to the Bible, but the Biblical vision of the Creator is indeed unique.

We now know that the Genesis vision of Creation was shaped in part during the Babylonian Exile, and in that context it became not just a story about the birth of the world, but a theology of a continuing relationship between God and the chosen people. The Jews in exile found themselves confronted with a rich diversity of mythologies of creation in the pagan religions around. Many of these involved some hostile and divinized chaos that had to be overcome by a greater divinity, as in the victory of Marduk over Tiamat. But "nothing in the biblical text gives evidence of such a struggle between divinities, to bring about order and to acquire supremacy. God acts alone and the victory over chaos leaves nobody defeated" (Jacques Briend, "Création dans la Bible", Dictionnaire des religions, 2 vols., ed. Paul Poupard, 3rd. ed., Paris: PUF, 1993, p. 393).

Thus the great first chapter of Genesis can be seen as an early example of dialogue between faith and culture, and it results in a critique of the polytheist culture of the Babylonian oppressors, a proclamation of faith that "the universe was fashioned by a God who creates in an orderly, purposeful, and nonviolent manner" (Anne M. Clifford, "Postmodern Scientific Cosmology and the Christian God of Creation", Horizons, Vol. 21, No. 1, 1994, 62-84: quotation from p. 72). At the heart of this theology is the transcendent power of God's word and the special relationship between Creator and humanity.

The Goodness of Creation

It is one of the beautiful moments in the Genesis account, when God, like an artist, expresses sheer satisfaction, exclaiming that creation is indeed "very good"! (Gen. 1: 31). Again, in the context of the ancient world, this was a way of distancing the biblical vision from those mythological views that imagined the world as failure, as "the result of a fall or a divine disgrace", or a division in the divine world (Claude Dagens, "Théologie de la Création", op. cit., p. 395).

And this goodness has a double purpose that is in fact magnificently united: as the glory of God and as gift to mankind. In the words of St Bonaventure, God created all things "not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and communicate it" (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 293). Centuries earlier, St Irenaeus had defended the Christian understanding of creation against the pessimism of the Gnostics about the external world. Insisting on an extraordinary mutuality of glory between God and human beings, that founding Father of French theology (dare I say!) made his famous claim that the "glory of God is humanity fully alive and the life of humanity is the vision of God" (Adv. haeres. IV, 20, 7). Or in Bernard Lonergan's paraphrase of Aquinas, "To say that God created the world for his glory is to say that he created it not for his sake but for ours" (Method in Theology, London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1972, pp. 116-117. cf. Sum. Theol. II-II, q. 132, a. 1, ad 1m).

There is a simple but important truth in this biblical vision: in our picture of the Creator we must never separate power from love, glory from gift, creation from covenant. The moment of artistic self-satisfaction, which I mentioned, is "transformed into a concern that is identical with the genuine good of the creature" (Kenneth L. Schmitz, The Gift: Creation, Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1982, p. 96. See also pp. 90-91). If we speak too much in objectivist terms of creation as the origin of existence, we forget a whole relational horizon, crucial in the biblical vision. Instead of offering explanations of origins, these texts are stories of faith, where mankind is created to enjoy this goodness of creation with God. In Genesis that enjoyment is best symbolized by the sabbath rest (cf. Gen. 2: 2), and indeed that contemplative spirit of the sabbath underlies both faith and culture: it unites a spirit of worship before God and of wonder before reality.

Creation as an act of freedom and love

The Creator is transcendent, creation is good, and the act of creating is one of divine generosity. In this light let me refer to the famous expression "creation ex nihilo". The phrase itself comes late in the Bible, during the hellenistic period - in the book of Maccabees (2 Mac 7:28) - but the whole "previous tradition was leading to this affirmation" (Briend, ibid.). In the early middle ages this term was adopted by the Fourth Lateran Council in order to condemn the view that matter was evil. Centuries later, at the time of deism, the idea of "creation ex nihilo" was interpreted in a narrower and almost scientific sense. The result was a God who appeared "remote and detached" from creation and this "eighteenth-century form of theism is evident among some contemporary cosmologists" of today (Anne Clifford, ibid., pp. 74-75).

Such an impersonal approach lacks the reverence needed to appreciate another feature in the Biblical vision: that God has no need to create, and does so with sovereign ease through the Word. There is no war against disorder. Instead as well as transcendence and goodness, utter freedom is central in this Genesis account. It is vital to understand this freedom as part of a God of covenant, as the Bible would say, or a God who offers us "participation" in the divine life, as Thomas Aquinas so often insists (cf. Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 44, a 1).

More important still, the choice to create can be fully understood only in a horizon of trinitarian love. "God created the universe in order to enter into a history of love with humankind . . so that love could exist" (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, In the Beginning, Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1990, p. 43). Science and philosophy can indeed cast light on questions about our origins, but only the Biblical tradition speaks of creation in this language of tenderness and sharing. From a theological point of view "a fully authentic creation was never imagined outside the horizon of Revelation" (cf. Romano Guardini, L'Esistenza e la Fede, Brescia: Morcelliana, 1960, p. 16).

Creation continues in a dialogue of freedoms

More and more we become aware that the Bible "not only refers to the origin of the world as the result of God's creative act, but it also reveals God as the Creator" (John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 20 January 1986, p. 5). In recent years biblical theologians have encouraged us not to stress the Genesis texts at the expense of other sections of the Bible that bring out other aspects of Creation. Thus in the Psalms or the Wisdom literature, creation is more intimately linked with salvation history as part of "God's seamless action, the creation of Israel", not just the making of a universe. Similarly there is the powerful hope of Second Isaiah concerning a new creation, another "bringing-into-existence of the people" (Richard J. Clifford, "The Hebrew Scriptures and the Theology of Creation", Theological Studies, Vol. 46, 1985, 507-523, quotations from pp. 515, 519).

In this way the Biblical vision goes beyond questions of origins to celebrate a covenant faith about God's saving presence in history. This opens up a vision of a creatio continua, whereby not only has God "founded the world and all it holds" but still "controls the pride of the ocean" (Psalm 89: 9-11). This is a God who is "revealing new things . . . created just now, this very moment" (Isaiah 48: 6). In this light the original creation "did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator": instead it was created "in a state of journeying", and indeed requires the "responsibility" of human beings in order to "perfect its harmony" (CCC, §§ 302, 307). Here we touch on the drama underlying all culture: a dialogue of freedoms, between love as God's free gift and the more fragile freedom of human response.

Creation at the root of Culture

As we gather these strands in the Christian understanding of creation, we have a rich basis for approaching culture as our answer to God's continuing and creative call. This sense of creation involves an invitation to become "fellow workers with God" (1 Cor. 3. 9). It asks us "to take up the universe as the gift of an intelligent and caring creator" and "to take up our own lives responsibly" in the service of creation and creator (Schmitz, op. cit., p. 127).

Just as creation, as we have seen, is a word with many layers of significance, so too is the term "culture". But above all it means how we human beings can "create" a whole history of ways of life and how we develop "different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence" (Centesimus annus § 24). It is customary to use the term "creation" to apply to the human creativity at the centre of culture, but strictly speaking there is only one creation. All other meanings are analogical: in the biblical tradition, however, we believe that our creativity is indeed an echo of that unique divine creation. God created from freedom, in goodness, and in love, and our cultural creativity is born from that gift.

Four lights from creation theology

Reflecting back on the aspects of creation theology that I have highlighted, one can see in each of them a challenge towards creating an authentic culture.

I spoke of the unique transcendence of the Creator. Can we ever envisage a genuine culture that does not include "transcendence" or a sense of God?

I touched on the goodness of creation itself. Faced with the shadows of our history, must we not struggle to discern, with sabbath-like wonder, the "goodness" always present within our world and its cultures?

I mentioned creation as an act of freedom and love. At the heart of every cultural aspiration, must we not defend the dignity of humanity, its freedom and autonomy and ultimately its capacity for love?

I suggested how creation continues in a dialogue of freedoms. In the light of God's calling us into responsible care for the earth, for each other and for history itself, may we not envisage the whole field of culture as a co-operation in the continuing work of the Lord?

These are truly vast horizons, but it is worth reminding ourselves of them. The biblical vision of creation is basic for appreciating our existence as relationship and responsibility, and therefore it is a foundation stone for any religious understanding of culture. For Christians it is not the foundation stone: that comes rather from the Incarnation itself, and then from the new creation born from the Paschal mystery. But in the light of the Old Testament, with its converging lights concerning creation, we can see culture as our echo of God, as we create ways of life worthy of who we are and who we can be.

Some contemporary examples: ecology, science, images

How can all this large vision of culture be made more concrete in the realities of today? I offer some quick examples from different fields of concern.

It is part of the adventure of church history that individual notes in the symphony of faith will acquire a different tone within changing cultures. Thus in today's culture a perennial note in creation faith has emerged into new prominence: an ecological awareness gives new significance to the Genesis command to cultivate the earth as gift. "I give you all the seed-bearing plants . . . and all the trees" (Gen. 1: 29). Today we can read with new eyes the famous texts of St. Paul on the groaning of all creation (Rom. 8: 22) or on Christ as the summit of cosmic creation , of "everything in the heavens and everything on earth" (Eph. 1: 10). Against the damage to the earth's future that we realize has been done, we have a new sense of preserving this fragile creation for future generations. A different dialogue is born between the goodness of creation and our human freedom. That goodness can be wounded. Our freedom is not absolute. Therefore we have to dominate our destructive ways of domination in order to be faithful to creation as gift.

This new conscience concerning creation is a very important sensitivity within contemporary culture and within Church reflections of recent decades. A "profound sense that the earth is suffering is also shared by those who do not profess our faith in God" and we believers experience with new urgency our "human vocation to participate responsibly in God's creative action in the world" (John Paul II, "Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all of Creation", Message for World Day of Peace 1990, §§ 5-6).

Science and Faith

A second and immensely important area is the relationship between science and faith. I had the honour to be President of the interdisciplinary Commission that, at the request of the Pope, investigated the Galileo Case. That sad and symbolic episode, we discovered, was born mainly from the limitations of the culture of the time: it lacked the intellectual tools to distinguish between methodologies and fields of knowledge. Thus the theologians who judged Galileo were unable to see that the Bible does not make claims about the physical world as such. As a result they were mistaken in transposing "into the realm of the doctrine of the faith a question that in fact pertained to scientific investigation" (John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 3 November 1992, pp. 1-2).

In the last century there were other tensions between theology and science in the field of creation itself: one thinks of the initial panic about Darwin's theories. But today what is striking is a new and mutual openness between science and religion. Undoubtedly this was helped by the clear recognition of the "rightful independence of science" by Vatican II (Gaudium et Spes § 36) and also by the healing of wounds through the initiatives of the Holy Father concerning Galileo.

Besides, both science and theology have learned new forms of humility. Possibly the most significant shift within the field of science is the abandonment of a mechanistic model of reality and the move towards a new sense of mystery especially in cosmology and astrophysics. How can we really grasp the staggering fact that the universe is about fifteen billion years old? For the theologian today, in fact "cosmic evolution can be considered as something entirely logical if one supposes that God did not wish to create a fully realized universe and that he chose to rely on the cooperation of natural causes" (Mariano Artigas, "Science et foi: nouvelles perspectives", in Après Galilée: science et foi - nouveau dialogue, ed. Paul Poupard, Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1994, p. 210). Here I am doing no more than evoking horizons of friendship between science and religion that were unimaginable in the culture of even a few decades ago.

Discerning the world of images

My third and last example comes from a different world. We are all aware of the image revolution brought about by television, and indeed of the cultural worries that arise concerning the manipulation of human imagination in trivial ways. Without entering into the details of this particular debate, I want to take it as a classic challenge as to how believers can wisely discern the dominant culture around them. If there is one simple lesson that we learn from biblical and church history it is that difficulty does not mean disaster. As I mentioned earlier, the creation faith of Genesis was partly provoked by the tragedy of exile and the challenge of pagan images around. Thus the encounter with a seemingly hostile moment can purify faith. Or again, St. Paul's first reaction to Athens was very negative: "his whole soul was revolted" (Acts 17:16), and yet shortly afterwards he reaches out to the culture leaders of the Areopagus having discerned seeds of spirituality in their world.

Faced with the image culture of today, one temptation is to scapegoat it, or to see nothing of good. Indeed such a wholesale rejection of culture can go hand in hand with a certain nostalgia for old ways of church or society. An opposite temptation is an "indiscriminate pluralism", which embraces everything, or else resigns itself by saying that all resistance is futile. Between these extremes of rejection and innocence lies the key challenge for faith before the image world of today: to "enter into critical dialogue with contemporary cultures, accepting what is sound, opposing what is faulty and attempting to supply what is lacking" (Avery Dulles, "Narrowing the Gap: Gospel and Culture", Origins, 17 March 1994, p. 679). This means discernment in order to serve that evangelization of cultures which is a constant call of the Church today.

The American novelist and philosopher, Walker Percy, whom I had the pleasure of having as a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture, liked to speak of our need of a "radical anthropology". By this he meant that "the functional method of the sciences" is not radical enough to do justice to the battle between authenticity and inauthenticity in all cultures. As he put it, with a certain irony, one can be an "integrated culture member and at the same time live a trivial and anonymous life". Against the undiscerning drift of our image culture, Percy's "radical anthropology" would raise questions about the ultimate purpose and the direction of our journeys, about whether any given cultural influence "does or does not contribute to the development of the potentialities of human nature" (Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1982, pp. 240-242). To ask a question about the overall direction of the pressures around us is to ask for a discernment of culture, and this is indeed a key task for our encounter with cultures today.

Hopes for Northern Ireland

In this light, and drawing towards the end, I ask myself what are some of the invitations for Ireland within this dialogue of faith and culture.

I would not wish to claim any special knowledge of the Northern Ireland situation but of course I share the gratitude and hope, felt by so many people around the world, at the positive developments of recent months. And I want to invite you to reflect on how important the cultural aspects could be, in this delicate moment of healing the past and shaping the future.

There are, we all know, many strands in this complex situation - political, social, historical and religious - but it also involves two cultural traditions that will need to find ways of listening and encounter after so much pain. Culture, at its simplest, means "the combination of meanings and values that shapes our way of life, molding our existence more or less consciously, like the air we breathe": within a definite human community we acquire "the convictions we possess" and the symbols we live by (Paul Poupard, The Church and Culture: Challenge and Confrontation, St. Louis: Central Bureau, CCVA, 1994, p. 53).

In this sense questions of cultural sensitivity seem vital for the Northern situation. Fostering this dimension would deepen the hopes for peace. Some inter-cultural dialogue could prove crucial in order to recognize both the vulnerabilities and the values of the other tradition. Coming from a distance, I risk making these suggestions, but simply in a spirit of encouragement and of prayer. What I say is rooted in the intuition that this horizon of culture could be very relevant for you here and now.

Dialogue with artists

If in recent decades Ireland has been mainly known abroad, sadly, because of the violence in the North, it is also true that this country is increasingly recognized as a place of special artistic creativity, with a whole new generation becoming known in the fields of cinema, literature, and music. If I had more time I would want to pause on this unique opportunity for dialogue between faith and culture. Suffice it to say, in the words of the Holy Father, that "a world without art would have difficulty opening up to faith" ("un monde sans art s'ouvrirait difficilement à la foi": Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VIII, 1, 1985, p. 1563). Indeed the Church in every country has much to learn from creative artists in order to understand the culture and to find deeper pastoral languages for faith.


With all this in mind, I have one final hope to voice: it is that Maynooth might establish some centre for reflection on faith and culture for the Irish context. Right around the world in recent years such foundations are multiplying. It is part of the work of the Pontifical Council for Culture to encourage and coordinate - I do not say "control" - such centres. In this moment of history after the fall of ideologies and after so many changes, the complex field of culture is where the drama of human searching is most clearly seen and the emerging shape of human meaning is most richly found.

While congratulating Maynooth on this great occasion of the Bicentenary, I invite you for the beginning of your third century to imagine a new dimension in your service of faith. In the words of Pope John Paul II, culture represents a "vital area in which the world's destiny is at stake at the approach of the third millennium". Moreover, adds the Holy Father, "the synthesis between culture and faith is not just a demand of culture but also of faith" (Inde a Pontificatus, Motu Proprio, 25 March 1993, in Church & Cultures, No. 19, 1993, p. 2).

If you were to initiate some such institute, you do not have to search very far for a suitable symbol. In the Celtic cross, a reminder of how ancient is the Christian culture of this land, you have a unique emblem: at the centre is the circle of the world, of creation itself, at the tension point between the two arms of the cross. This symbol of yours unites a reverence for the world and a reverence for the mystery of Christ. It is a perfect synthesis of culture and faith from another age but which invites you to renew the connection for today and tomorrow.

May Maynooth be creative in facing these new horizons and thus may this great Catholic College become an "ambassador", for this moment of history, of the "new creation" which is always God's work in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5: 17-20).


Le Cardinal Paul Poupard identifie quatre aspects de la théologie biblique de la création pour éclairer le dialogue entre foi et culture: la transcendance de Dieu noue un rapport d'alliance avec l'humanité; la bonté de la Création comme don; la Création vue davantage comme une histoire de liberté et d'amour que comme le simple récit des origines; la continuation de la création dans la responsabilité humaine. Ainsi la culture humaine et la créativité font écho à l'action de Dieu et produisent les différents styles de vie dignes de personnes créées à l'image de Dieu. Trois horizons contemporains sont mentionnés pour leur importance spécifique: une nouvelle conscience écologique pour veiller sur la création, une nouvelle et meilleure appréciation réciproque entre science et foi, le défi de discerner la révolution de l'image aujourd'hui. En conclusion, le Cardinal mentionne la possible pertinence de la dimension culturelle dans le processus de paix en Irlande du Nord.


El Cardenal Paul Poupard identifica cuatro aspectos de la teología bíblica de la Creación como elementos que dan luz al diálogo entre fe y cultura: la trascendencia de Dios entendida dentro de un pacto de afinidad con la humanidad; la bondad de la creación como don; la creación más como una historia de libertad y de amor que simplemente de procedencia; la continuidad de la creación en la responsabilidad humana. En esta vía humana cultura y creatividad hacen resonar la acción de Dios y producen caminos de vida digna y de seres creados a imagen de Dios. Se mencionan tres horizontes contemporáneos, como de importancia especial: la nueva ecología vigilante del cuidado de la creación; alentador aprecio mutuo entre ciencia y fe; el reto de discernir la revolución de la imagen hoy. En conclusión el Cardenal menciona una dimensión cultural como pertinente en el proceso de paz de Irlanda del Norte.