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Cardinal Paul Poupard, Men or Machines?

Cardinal Paul Poupard, Sognare un futuro di bellezza e di pace

P. J.-M. Laurent Mazas, Promotion de l’identité culturelle européenne : le défi de l’éducation

Credo missionnaire des prêtres diocésains francophones d’Océanie






Pontifical University of Saint Thomas, Rome

3 December 2001


Paul Cardinal POUPARD

President of the Pontifical Council for Culture



I am very happy to be with you for the opening of the fifth Tertio Millennio Film Festival. This has become a regular event in the life of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the “Ente dello Spettacolo”, but I know it is one that is becoming better known both within and without the Catholic world, and that is because observers have appreciated the value of the project and the results it has produced so far. Clearly films are an excellent vehicle for the discussion of beliefs and values in a way that is not threatening and can, therefore, elicit deep thought and frank, open conversation. They are non-didactic, and yet extremely provocative, in the best sense. I hope and am sure that this year’s festival will take us further forward in a debate our world urgently needs.

I am struck by a certain complexity in the title of this year’s Festival. The question guiding all we shall do in these days indicates what looks to me like an exclusive distinction. One cannot be both man and machine. But perhaps the question also suggests that some people think one can. The second part of the Festival’s title is an invitation to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of technological progress, on whether or not it improves the physical, economic, social and moral conditions of human life. Technology is one of the major influences shaping contemporary culture. That is something we should try to understand rather than resist. But in these days I am sure many will point to some of the risks and challenges technological progress brings with it. Two of the elements that have most benefited from new technology are the communications media and the film industry. But they are both in a position to use new skills and methods in a way that will imbue our culture with a healthy view of human life.

When people look back to the year 2001, the thing that will strike them most clearly is a set of terrible images imprinted on the minds of every person in the world who has access to television or newspapers: the attack by terrorists on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on 11 September. This is not the place to enumerate or dwell on the particular images, which will have struck us all in different ways, but what is significant is that this event shocked more people more quickly and more profoundly than any previous event. This happened precisely because those images were beamed live around the world, and the people who saw them will probably never forget them. If ever anyone was in doubt, this is proof positive of the stunning power of visual images.

Precisely why did these images shock people? The question is not superfluous in our context. What was appalling was not the destruction of buildings and property – objects that could possibly one day be replaced. It was not even the offence to a proud nation, or the hatred for what the buildings represented, although those factors both raise serious issues that need to be faced and pondered. The real source of sadness, grief, horror and rage is the cost in terms of human lives. This brings us right to the heart of our film festival this year – the value of human life. What is human life worth? How much value do our cultures place on human life? How much value do we, as individuals, place on human life? In the next few minutes, I hope to sketch a framework for our considerations that may help order our thoughts and suggest new images of humanity to be communicated creatively in the new technologies and, above all, in films.



I. Images of men and machines in film and modern literature


Some powerful images in films bring to the screen the visions of life in the future found in modern literature. These images may look dated very soon after we first see them, but they are no less striking for that. The test is whether we remember them. I am sure many of you will have a very vivid picture of a futuristic city in your mind’s eye when I mention the film Metropolis, which Fritz Lang made exactly seventy-five years ago. Even those of us who never saw the film the first time around will recognise the images, not least because it was used to great effect as the video backdrop to a song recorded some fifteen years ago by the English rock group Queen. The vision in Metropolis is typical of cartoon adventure stories written for young boys throughout much of the twentieth century. It is a vision of wonder, a projection of people’s hope that life in the technologically advanced city of the future would be so much better than the present. Many of the first commercial advertisements in the early days of television portrayed the same conviction. The best examples were those that told housewives that domestic appliances would set them free to enjoy much more leisure. They implied that an automated household would be a happier one. Smiling children and contented young couples are still de rigueur in today’s television commercials. In this positive vision, men and machines work hand in hand for what is clearly seen to be a better life in the immediate future.

Not all visions of the future are so positive or utopian. A name that is well known from films is Frankenstein. Indeed, there have been dozens of films made since 1910 using that name in the title, the most famous being the 1931 Hollywood version starring Boris Karloff, and the comic spin-off Young Frankenstein, made by Mel Brooks in 1974. Most people think of Frankenstein as the monster portrayed in the films, but in the novel written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in 1818[1] the name belongs to the Swiss scientist whose creation eventually killed him. After thirteen years of reactions to the book when it first appeared, she referred to it in her introduction to the second edition as her “hideous progeny”. The monster Frankenstein created is fierce and extremely destructive. But what is hideous is that the real location of evil is in Victor Frankenstein’s way of thinking. “I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life”, he said; “I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter”. This is very much the stuff of what we might now call science fiction. But Victor’s further thoughts are chilling. “No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards…. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child as completely as I should deserve theirs”[2].

For Mary Shelley, technological inventiveness can obviously have frightening consequences. Here it is a question of self-centred research and development. Victor Frankenstein certainly sought power and gratification. The novel raises a further question that arises in many other contexts. To what extent can technology run out of the control of its inventors or operators?

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, published in 1932, offered a chilling view of how things might be in a technological utopia. The historical background is significant: the Soviet empire was very firmly established, and the Nazis were emerging from the wings elsewhere. What Huxley wrote was not really a utopia, but much more a dystopia, the analysis of a humanly dysfunctional world where inhuman or monstrous forces have been let loose. Brave New World belongs to a new literary genre created several years earlier by the Russian writer and novelist Yevgeny Zamyatin. In We[3], Zamyatin portrayed life in the “Single State”, where workers lived in glass houses so that every moment of their lives could be observed. They were referred to by numbers rather than names, and dressed in identical uniforms. Chemical food and human contact were strictly rationed. The State was ruled by “the Benefactor”, who was unanimously and perpetually re-elected. The abiding image after reading this novel is of a denial of personal worth and the oppressive presence of constant technological surveillance. These images are even starker and developed further in George Orwell’s 1984, published in 1949 and made into a film at least twice[4]. The appeal of Huxley’s, Zamyatin’s and Orwell’s dystopian novels is that they strike a chord in people’s imagination. They each create images of a society where human life is hemmed in by technology that allows the totalitarian government to be omnipresent and, consequently, almost omniscient. If knowledge really is power, this makes the political controllers practically omnipotent as well. Here, individuality and initiative are perceived as the enemy of the state, and their elimination results in a very efficient, but inhuman, organisation of society. These novels reflect perfectly the experience of people subjected to the highly mechanised life of modern industry. Here was a warning of what could happen, not only in socialist states, but also in societies dominated by a technological approach to everything, including human life. Once appreciated, these images are hard to forget.



II. Men and machines and high technology


It has been said that the twenty-first century will be the century of biotechnology, and recent news serves to confirm that. It will, in fact, force us all to ask what place human life will have in our culture. Very recently, a laboratory in the United States of America claimed to have cloned human stem cells. If this were true, such an example of the ability and ingenuity of the scientific community would make us stand back in awe. But it seems that the company in question has actually failed to achieve what it claims. In any case, there is no mention of an earlier episode of cloning in December 1998, in Seoul in South Korea. It is clear that the current news is meant to jolt people into awareness of the issue, so that there will be greater public sympathy for a forthcoming attempt to pass legislation permitting human cloning. What is important is the way the subject is presented, the images used. Much is made of the term “therapeutic” cloning, on the pretext that human cells can be used to improve other people’s health. Very few people mention the serious problems involved; perhaps it is really a question of marketing an idea, and the packaging has to be totally positive. It is as if one were forbidden to draw people’s attention to anything that would question the value of the process. I must admit that my own reflections on the human person always begin from those beautiful lines in Psalm 8: “what is man that you bear him in mind; mortal man, that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god; with glory and honour you crowned him” (v. 4f.). In other words, the human person is a remarkable element in God’s creation; as Christians, we cannot go as far as some tendencies within the broad sweep of New Age, but this Psalm clearly shows just how precious we are to our Creator. That means we have to be very careful before we interfere with the way we have been created, just as we are meant to be good stewards of all the Lord created. As the Holy Father said in his Apostolic Letter marking the end of the Great Jubilee of the year two thousand, “those using the latest advances of science, especially in the field of biotechnology, must never disregard fundamental ethical requirements by invoking a questionable solidarity which eventually leads to discrimination between one life and another and ignoring the dignity which belongs to every human being” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 51).

The issue of cloning reminds any thinking person that it is always essential to probe behind the images that often satisfy our culture. If we fail to do that, we can be prevented from seeing the truth of the issue. In the case of the value of human life, there is a great deal at stake if we simply give the go-ahead to whatever is technically possible, without subjecting it to the same ethical scrutiny that applies to all our actions. To paraphrase the Lord’s question in humbler words, is man at the service of technology or is technology at the service of man?

Another closely related issue worth bearing in mind during these days is one that links technology, the communications media, the film industry and culture. It is the question of high technology weaponry and war. I mention this because it is lurking beneath much that we see or hear on television or radio news programmes, or read in newspapers and periodicals. Ever since the Vietnam war, it has been possible to watch military operations live – previously something re-enacted in films and described in written accounts. Since the conflicts in the Persian Gulf, high technology has made it possible to follow the progress of a “smart” laser-guided bomb right to its target. Not long ago, this would have seemed bizarre. Now, I wonder how far we can become de-sensitised by over-exposure to such a frightening, violent occurrence. Again, technology has progressed to such a point that those who destroy even large numbers of people defined as their “enemy” have no need to see them. To help them cope with what they are doing, they are drilled into referring to those they kill with a clinical terminology that means they never have to call them “people”. I think that the “image masters” of the third Millennium have a great responsibility: in the way the press and television and radio report war, in the way films deal with it, and in the way video games are designed with young users in mind. The question must always be there: what value do these images give to human life?

High technology is not only in pharmaceutical laboratories and on battlefields; it is in every home in the Western world, and more and more in other parts of the world, too. Many of us remember the beginnings of television, and how invasive it seemed to be when we got over the novelty of it. Nowadays, we are faced with something much more advanced, and harder to control. I am speaking, of course, of the Internet. I feel obliged to stress the good it can do. I am very happy, for example, that the work of the Pontifical Council for Culture has been made much more accessible by means of a web page on the Holy See’s Internet site. I know that, in remote parts of large countries, education has been vastly improved. People can discover the riches of a library without even having to be in the same country. This remarkable means of communication has brought so many good things to so many people. Indeed, with such a powerful tool, those in the Church who are responsible for evangelisation must ask: “How can we not be present and use information networks, whose screens are at the heart of people’s homes, to implant the values of the Gospel there?”[5]

But these are not the only values the Internet brings with it. For it has to be acknowledged that the Internet has been the way pornography has invaded homes, schools and libraries. At the same time, this new technology did not create the abusers who use it for evil purposes; it simply gave them theopportunity[6]. Most people can fend for themselves when they are faced with wickedness and temptation. But I cannot see how purveyors of pornography, racism and other potentially offensive materials fail to see their responsibility towards children who may discover these things either accidentally or because some perverted person has led them to it. It may be harder for people to see that we also have a responsibility to help steer morally weak adults away from what are rightly known in a Christian context as “occasions of sin”.

Another question about Internet is its effect on privacy. There is a great deal of information about ordinary people available to unscrupulous companies, who are already able to compile phenomenally detailed dossiers on the “browsing habits” of almost all Internet users. It is also clear that some governments are reluctant to pass legislation to restrict the availability and use of personal data[7]. I am not suggesting any kind of paranoid crusade for secrecy. But I would ask, quite simply, what the value of human life seems to be when people are clearly made so vulnerable by a stealthy but effective use of sophisticated technologies.



III. Machines for Men. Humanising Technology


I am firmly convinced that there is no inner contradiction between the viewpoint of any scientist and that of men and women who believe in God. Those who say there is a conflict between religion and science are rehearsing a tired and unconvincing litany of inaccuracies. The present Pope has always made it clear that “the Church freely recognizes… that it has benefited from science”. He also believes that “collaboration between religion and modern science is to the advantage of both, and in no way violates the autonomy of either”[8], a principle that is at the heart of the Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio. It is worth remembering that the Pope told everyone who took part in the Jubilee of Men and Women from the World of Learning, in May 2000, that “the Church is not afraid of science”. I, too, wish to emphasise that technology is not my enemy.

In his essay The Question concerning Technology[9], Heidegger recommends a calm approach to technology, so that we are free to see it, as it were, from within. It is not enough to understand technology in the sense of seeing how it works. It is more important to discover what technology means. One cannot assess technology’s effects on culture without this ability to step outside the immediate experience of it. I should like to say, with Heidegger, that “what is dangerous is not technology. Technology is not demonic; but its essence is mysterious…. The threat to man does not come in the first instance from the potentially lethal machines and apparatus of technology”[10]. For Heidegger, the problem with technology is that it can and does fascinate or entrance us. This can obscure the fact that there are more fundamental questions to ask. But, as long as we realise that is happening, we still have a chance of disentangling the positive and negative elements of technology. Towards the end of his essay, Heidegger speaks of the “time when it was not technology alone that bore the name technē…. Once there was a time when the bringing forth of the true into the beautiful was called technē. The poiēsis of the fine arts was also called technē[11]. I think this gives a richer and deeper appreciation of the scope of technology. When it is not and end in itself, it can help to make beauty more accessible to the men and women of our time, who are “hesitant before the true, resistant to the good, but captivated by the beautiful”[12].

I hesitate to endorse Heidegger’s position totally, because there is a risk in his approach of instrumentalising the other rather than respecting his or her absolute alterity. Technology is the most sophisticated and the most effective form of mastering objects or even conquering the earth[13]. Since the days of the pre-Socratic philosophers, the natural human urge or libido dominandi, to use the phrase coined by Emmanuel Levinas, has been expressed above all in our desire to dominate reality by knowing it. The very word concept speaks of grasping and, in some sense, possessing what it can know. In the case of relations with other human beings, there is clear evidence that many of our relationships are coloured by this unconscious tendency to want to dominate or even possess the other. For Levinas this is a relationship doomed to failure. “If one could possess, grasp, and know the other, it would not be other. Possessing, knowing, and grasping are synonyms of power”[14]. The other person’s alterity has to be totally respected, even if his or her presence is an “irruption” into my life. “The relationship with the other is not an idyllic and harmonious relationship of communion, or a sympathy through which we put ourselves in the other’s place…; the relationship with the other is a relationship with a Mystery”[15]. Levinas goes even further. He says that the respect owed to the other implies that we have to give him or her a real priority over us. Here is the total opposite to the manipulative view of external reality underlying the normal use of technology, one that becomes frightening in the examples I used to illustrate where technology can undervalue or even devalue human life.



Conclusion. The “Image Masters” at the service of humankind


I wish to conclude with a challenge to all of us, but specifically to those involved in the art of film-making. I have suggested that we underestimate the power of images at our peril. Some images from films, literature and the communications media really do not depict the human person as the superb creation of God that is worthy of dignity and respect. In many ways, the way technology is used has allowed men and women to feel helpless and worthless in the face of a progress they cannot resist or stop. The problem is not the sophistication of technology itself, but the attitudes of those who control it. What can we do about that? What must we do about it? I suggest that the power of images is the key. What image do we ourselves have of human life? Do we in reality view others as people we would somehow like to control? Or do we have a hint of that enormous respect for the Mystery of the Other that is at the heart of the vision Levinas had? Everything hinges on our own answers to these questions.

Would it be too much to ask the most creative artists we have in the world of social communications and, above all, in the world of films, to seek to view the world and the human person sub specie aeternitatis? Too often people have attempted to prove that the world is too small for God and humanity to co-exist, but there is an alternative way of portraying that relationship. God does not despise his world; He loves everything in it and rejoices in it, and that means that He loves human beings and rejoices in them. Despite all the human race’s failures and weaknesses, I feel we are called to try to imagine, and to put into images, what God sees in us. And you know as well as I do that we have the technology. Now above all the world needs signs of hope. I have every confidence that film-makers can answer that need.


*  *  *


El 3 de diciembre de 2001, el Cardenal Paul Poupard pronunció la conferencia inaugural de la quinta edición del Festival “Tertio Millennio”, dedicado al tema ¿Hombres o máquinas? El valor de la vida y el poder en la cultura, los medios de comunicación y las películas en el Tercer Milenio. Este año, el Congreso Internacional se celebró en Roma, en la Pontificia Universidad de Santo Tomás  (“Angelicum”). Presentando imágenes del hombre y la máquina en el cine y en la literatura moderna, el Cardenal abordó la cuestión de la tecnología punta (high tech), concluyendo con una invitación a humanizar la tecnología.


Le 3 décembre 2001, le Cardinal Paul POUPARD a prononcé le discours d’ouverture de la cinquième édition du Festival Tertio Millennio sur Hommes ou Machines? La valeur de la vie et le pouvoir de la technologie dans la culture, les moyens de communication et le cinéma au Troisième Millénaire à l’Université Pontificale Saint-Thomas, à Rome, en Italie. Il a analysé la vision de l’homme et de la machine dans le cinéma et la littérature moderne, puis il a abordé la question de la haute technologie en plaidant pour une humanisation de la technologie.


Il 3 dicembre 2001, presso la Pontificia Università di San Tommaso in Roma, il Cardinale Paul Poupard ha tenuto la prolusione all’apertura della quinta edizione del Festival Tertio Millennio sul tema Uomini o macchine? Il valore della vita e il potere della tecnologia nella cultura, nelle comunicazioni sociali e nel cinema nel terzo millennio. Presentando immagini dell’uomo e della macchina nel cinema e nella letteratura moderna, ha affrontato la questione della high technology, concludendo che la tecnologia deve essere umanizzata.




[2] Op. cit., p. 43.

[3] Zamyatin was not allowed to publish this novel in Russia, where it was circulated in manuscript form. The first publication was in English in the United States of America in 1924, and it was first published in Russian in Prague in 1927.

[4] 1984, 1956, Michael Anderson; 1984, 1984, Michael Radford.

[5] Pontifical Council for Culture, Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture, 9.

[6] Cf. the address given by Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore (U.S.A.) to the Missouri Catholic Conference in Jefferson City on 22 September 2001, in Origins October 11, 2001, pp. 306-310.

[7] Cf. “Invasion of Privacy on the Internet”, in: Culture e Fede, Cultures et Foi, Cultures and Faith, Culturas y Fe Vol. IX 2001/4, pp. 317-318.

[8] Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Commemoration of Albert Einstein, 10 November 1979.

[9] in: Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, edited by David Krell, London (RKP) 1978.

[10] Op. cit., p. 309.

[11] Ibid., p. 315.

[12] Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Malines-Bruxelles (Belgium) at the May 2001 Consistory of Cardinals, quoted by Cardinal Cahal Daley in The Tablet, 9 June 2001, p. 832.

[13] Genesis 1.28.

[14] Emmanuel Levinas, Time and the Other, translated by Richard A. Cohen, Pittsburgh (Duquesne University Press) 1987, p. 90 [originally published as “Le temps et l’autre” in J. Wahl, Le Choix, Le Monde, L’Existence, Grenoble-Paris (Arthaud), 1947].

[15] Op. cit., p. 75.







Indirizzo di saluto in occasione della visita a Raicinema

Roma, 12 giugno 2002


Paul Cardinal POUPARD

Presidente del Pontificio Consiglio della Cultura



Gentili Signori, cari amici,


“Sono molto lieto di trovarmi qui con voi. Mi piacerebbe poter salutare ciascuno di voi personalmente ed esprimervi la mia stima individualmente. Sebbene ciò non sia possibile, desidero manifestare il mio sincero rispetto per tutte le categorie dei «media» che voi rappresentate e per le diverse funzioni che voi assolvete come lavoratori, scrittori, editori, manager e dirigenti. Vi porgo il mio saluto nel pieno svolgimento delle vostre attività, da quella più nota alla più nascosta”.

Signore e Signori, queste non sono parole mie, ma di Giovanni Paolo II, rivolte, nel 1987, ai rappresentanti e agli addetti ai lavori di Hollywood durante la prima e per il momento unica visita pastorale di un Pontefice nell’industria del cinema più importante e conosciuta del mondo. Con queste parole, dal forte valore simbolico, voglio oggi rivolgere i miei più sinceri e cordiali saluti al Presidente di Raicinema Giuliano Montaldo, al suo Amministratore Delegato Giancarlo Leone, al Direttore Generale Carlo Macchittella, ed a tutti coloro che in questi primi anni di attività della Società hanno contribuito con generosità al successo crescente di un cinema capace di essere attento all’uomo, alla sua inassopita ricerca spirituale, alla sua sete di verità, ai valori fondamentali della nostra vita. Un cinema dell’uomo e per l’uomo.

Una produzione cinematografica, quella di Raicinema, seguita anche dalla Santa Sede con un’attenzione particolare. Negli ultimi mesi, per ben due volte, L’Osservatore Romano ha elogiato due vostre interessanti ed importanti produzioni cinematografiche: La stanza del figlio di Nanni Moretti e Casomai di Alessandro D’Alatri. Il primo, decorato con la “Palma d’Oro” al Festival di Cannes, è un’intensa meditazione sul dolore e la speranza; il secondo, premiato da un interesse della critica e del pubblico che hanno sottolineato la sua felice esposizione narrativa e la tecnica giovanile di ripresa, è riuscito a proporre positivamente alcuni temi importanti della vita umana, tra cui il matrimonio, illuminandoli con encomiabile garbo e delicatezza.

A dimostrazione ulteriore della sintonia che è sempre possibile trovare fra persone di buona volontà onestamente dedite alla promozione della dignità della persona umana nel vasto mondo dei media di largo consumo come il cinema, desidero inoltre rilevare l’importante segnale della sponsorizzazione che Raicinema ha voluto dare al Festival Tertio Millennio organizzato dalla “Rivista del Cinematografo” dell’Ente dello Spettacolo. Si tratta di una manifestazione che il Pontificio Consiglio della Cultura e il Pontificio Consiglio delle Comunicazioni Sociali hanno patrocinato fin dal suo nascere proprio nella speranza, e oggi vorrei aggiungere nella consapevolezza, che potesse diventare la sede di un dialogo serrato e costruttivo con le forze intellettualmente oneste e vivaci della cultura odierna dedite allo spettacolo cinematografico. L’incontro di oggi, ne sono convinto e felice, è una nuova dimostrazione della bontà degli sforzi vicendevoli fatti in questi anni.

La Chiesa apre le braccia alla gente del cinema, li accoglie, dialoga con loro nel campo della cultura e dell’arte, ascolta, osserva e propone. Questo è il forte messaggio che in questi anni non ci siamo mai stancati di ripetere e di testimonia­re coi fatti: convegni, anteprime cinematografiche, dibattiti, conversazioni, un interesse sempre crescente e benevolo della stampa che ha davvero messo in rilievo l’atteggiamento positivo e propositivo di questi incontri. E lo stesso Giovanni Paolo II per ben tre volte ha voluto incontrarci in udienza per rinnovare l’interesse della Chiesa per il mondo del cinema e spronarci a non venire meno in questi buoni propositi di dialogo, amicizia e fruttuosa collaborazione.

Fa piacere davvero costatare che non si tratta di inviti fatti nel deserto.

Quella di oggi, però, è anche la prima visita che il Presidente del Pontificio Consiglio della Cultura e un Capo Dicastero della Curia Romana compie in un’industria del cinema italiano tra le più brillanti e attive. È, quindi, un’occasione che c’invita tutti a riflettere sul ruolo avuto dalla straordinaria cinematografia italiana nella storia della cultura moderna.

Ogni Paese è riuscito ad esprimere le proprie peculiarità nazionali anche attraverso il cinema. In Italia, viene da dire, più che altrove, la dimensione etica del messaggio cinematografico ha toccato punte altissime che hanno brillato come esempi in tutto il mondo. Pensiamo, soprattutto, alla formidabile lezione morale del neorealismo di autori indimenticabili e preziosi come Rossellini e De Sica ma anche come Zavattini, e vi confido che sono particolarmente affezionato alle poetiche metafore di un film come Miracolo a Milano. Sono tutte opere che avevo ansia e gioia di vedere quando, giovane studente a Parigi, frequentavo la Sorbona e ne uscivo, ricordo bene, frettolosamente per recarmi al vicino Cinema d’Art et d’Essai. La loro visione dell’estetica cinematografica ha contagiato tutto il cinema migliore dell’Italia e questa impronta rende, ancora oggi, veramente memorabili molte, moltissime, opere del cinema italiano. Un segno distintivo e peculiare che lo rende unico nel mondo intero. E spesso, nella sua ricerca spirituale, lo avvicina alla cinematografia del mio Paese di origine, la Francia, dove Robert Bresson ha dato una lezione di stile e di contenuti indimenticabile.

Ma è anche il cinema nella sua dimensione planetaria a suscitare l’attenzione non occasionale della Chiesa. Sempre nel 1987, durante il suo messaggio ai “padroni” di Hollywood, Giovanni Paolo II ricorda: “Il vostro lavoro può costituire una forza per fare un gran bene oppure un gran male. Voi stessi ne conoscete i pericoli, come anche le splendide opportunità che vi si presentano. I prodotti della comunicazione possono essere creazioni di grande bellezza, rivelando ciò che vi è di nobile ed elevato nell’umanità e favorendo ciò che è giusto, onesto e vero. D’altro canto, le comunicazioni possono costituire un richiamo ed esaltare ciò che è degradante nelle persone… tutti i media di cultura popolare che voi rappresentate possono costituire o distruggere, elevare o degradare. Voi avete indicibili possibilità di fare del bene, inquietanti possibilità di distruzione. È la differenza tra la morte e la vita – la morte o la vita dello spirito –. Ed è una questione di scelta. La sfida di Mosè al popolo di Israele si applica oggi a tutti noi: «Io ti ho posto davanti la vita e la morte... Scegli dunque la vita» (Dt 30,19)”.

Il cinema, sin dal suo nascere, ha stretto legami importanti con la dimensione religiosa dell’uomo. Nella Lettera agli artisti, che ho avuto l’onore di presentare alla Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, Giovanni Paolo II scrive «Si può dire che l’arte abbia bisogno della Chiesa. L’artista è sempre alla ricerca del senso recondito delle cose, il suo tormento è di riuscire ad esprimere il mondo dell’ineffabile». Come riuscire ad esprimere su di uno schermo piatto e bianco questo ineffabile, che si insinua nelle grandi pieghe della storia così come nello sguardo anonimo di una donna, che tocca una vita sino ai vertici della santità oppure traccia una scia nella storia comune di tanti volti?

Come non vedere, allora, quale grande sorgente possa essere per il cinema quella sorta di patria dell’anima che è la religione? Non è forse nell’ambito religioso che si pongono le domande personali più importanti e si cercano le risposte esistenziali definitive? Giovanni Paolo II, amico sincero e stupendo delle arti e degli artisti, ha mirabilmente colto questa dimensione di collaborazione e di reciproco arricchimento.

“La bellezza non è una qualità oggettiva delle cose, ma esiste per animo di chi la contempla, e ogni animo percepisce una bellezza diversa”. Questo scriveva, in pieno fulgore illuminista, il filosofo scozzese David Hume. Anticipava, in fondo, una tendenza che il XX secolo ha portato alle estreme conseguenze, investendo in pieno l’artista del Novecento. Anche il cinema, in tutto il corso del secolo passato, e forse in modo maggiore che qualsiasi arte, è stato colto da questi problemi, da queste inquietudini e provocazioni. Inoltre, la società della tecnica e del capitale, che sono alla base della produzione cinematografica, la medialità e la globalizzazione, motivo del successo sbalorditivo dell’industria cinematografica, darebbero vita ad una moltiplicazione dei punti di vista, sia del pubblico sia degli studiosi delle varie discipline estetiche, sociologiche e della comunicazione, che di fatto hanno rovesciato il senso dell’arte, favorendo l’affermazione di opere che poco rispondono alla visione del bello, del buono e del vero.

Oggi ci troviamo insieme per riaffermare in modo positivo il senso della bellezza del cinema, lo stupore che sempre suscita l’opera d’arte, la bontà che permea, il messaggio di verità che racchiude. Il cinema può essere tutto questo. “La bellezza è la cifra del mistero. E’ invito a gustare la vita e a sognare il futuro”. Giovanni Paolo II, con queste parole, ci dona implicitamente una deontologia cinematografica. Mi auguro di cuore, gentili signori e cari amici, onorandomi di sottoporre queste parole alla vostra riflessione e creatività, che saprete sempre più meritare la nostra gratitudine per aiutarci veramente – e ne abbiamo bisogno – a gustare la vita, questo dono meraviglioso di Dio, ed a sognare un futuro di bellezza e di pace per tutti i nostri fratelli. Il cinema ha una splendida vocazione: aiutare a gustare la vita e a sognare il futuro.

Siamo certi di questo: è necessaria da parte di tutti una presa di coscienza sincera e attuale del potere che il cinema sviluppa e possiede, per tutti i popoli della terra, quale forma artistica, fenomeno culturale, strumento di comunicazione, esempio di arte per eccellenza del Terzo Millennio.

A tutti voi, insieme con un ringraziamento sincero per l’opportunità straordinaria di questo incontro e per il desiderio che una vera e fruttuosa collaborazione possa nascere, negli ambiti più appropriati, tra il Pontificio Consiglio della Cultura e Raicinema, un sincero augurio di buon lavoro ed anche l’assicurazione di un ricordo nella quotidiana preghiera affinché il vostro operato sia sempre più fonte di gioia e di soddisfazione per voi e per il vostro innumerevole pubblico.


*  *  *


On 12th June 2002, Cardinal Paul POUPARD paid a visit to Raicinema in Rome. In a talk entitled Dreams of a future of beauty and peace, he stressed that, since its beginnings, the world of the cinema has had close and important links with the religious dimension of the human person. The Church opens her arms to people from this world, makes them welcome, enters into dialogue with them in the field of culture and art, listens, observes and offers suggestions. In recent years, the Pontifical Council for Culture has tirelessly repeated this message and lived up to it.


Le 12 juin 2002, le Cardinal Paul Poupard a visité les studios de Raicinema, à Rome. Dans son discours intitulé Rêver d’un avenir de beauté et de paix, il a souligné que le cinéma, depuis sa naissance, entretient des liens étroits avec la dimension religieuse de l’homme. L’Église ouvre les bras au monde du cinéma, l’accueil, dialogue avec lui dans le domaine de la culture et de l’art, écoute, observe et propose. C’est le message fort que le Conseil Pontifical de la Culture n’a cessé de rappeler cette année, en donnant l’exemple dans les faits.


El 12 de junio de 2002, el Cardenal Paul Poupard visitó las instalaciones de Rai Cinema, en Roma. En su saludo a los dirigentes, con el título Soñar un futuro de belleza y de paz subrayó el hecho de que el cine, desde su nacimiento, ha tejido lazos importantes con la dimensión religiosa del hombre. La Iglesia abre sus brazos a la gente del cine, los acoge, dialoga con ellos en el campo de la cultura y del arte, escucha, observa y propone. Este es el mensaje que el Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura no ha dejado de repetir con sus palabras y de atestiguar con los hechos.









Intervention devant le nouveau Comité Directeur de la Culture

du Conseil de l’Europe, Strasbourg, le 17 juin 2002


P. J.-M. Laurent MAZAS, F.S.J.

Conseil Pontifical de la Culture



La problématique sous-jacente à toute réflexion sur la promotion d’une identité culturelle européenne, est d’une part celle de la possibilité même d’une identité culturelle commune respectueuse des identités particulières, et d’autre part celle de l’évolution continuelle des sociétés.


1. S’il est possible d’œuvrer aujourd’hui pour la promotion d’une identité culturelle européenne à travers des programmes d’éducation, c’est qu’il y a dans la mosaïque des peuples qui composent l’Europe une même vision partagée, fondée sur une conception précise de l’homme. Celle-ci s’est développée avec la philosophie, à partir de l’interrogation socratique du gnothi sauton, le connais-toi, toi-même, avec la pensée chrétienne qui a élaboré un humanisme fondé sur la dignité de la personne humaine, et a suscité une culture, un droit et un art dont la caractéristique, en Europe, est fondamentalement de parler de l’homme à l’homme.

Ainsi, la promotion d’une identité culturelle européenne s’enracine dans une valorisation de cette réflexion sur l’homme, sur la notion de personne humaine, la prise de conscience de sa dignité, de ses droits et de ses devoirs. Elle requiert de créer les conditions nécessaires à la transmission de cet héritage commun à tous les peuples d’Europe, héritage qui porte en lui des germes d’universalité, riche de l’apport de la philosophie et du droit, de la religion, des sciences et des arts. Le Saint-Siège insiste pour que la dimension spirituelle et religieuse dans laquelle puise l’identité européenne, soit reconnue et objectivement présentée comme une des voies privilégiées de la transmission de l’humanisme européen.


2. La seconde problématique est celle de l’évolution permanente des sociétés. Elle se caractérise, partout en Europe, par le passage d’une société plus ou moins ancrée dans une organisation sociale portée par des valeurs traditionnelles à une société de type nouveau que la mondialisation et les développements des nouvelles technologies transforment en profondeur à travers les valeurs et les contre-valeurs qu’elles véhiculent.

Ainsi, la promotion d’une identité culturelle européenne respectueuse de la diversité des cultures qui composent l’Europe, pose le problème crucial de la transmission des valeurs fondamentales de cette identité. Aussi le Saint-Siège approuve-t-il la proposition de développer des programmes-cadres à tous les niveaux de l’éducation – primaire, secondaire et supérieur – ainsi que dans d’autres contextes de formation non-institutionnels. Promouvoir cette identité culturelle commune implique aussi la prise en compte du rôle et de l’influence des moyens de communication sociale et le respect des valeurs fondamentales constitutives de l’Europe. À des degrés divers et dans des domaines variés, l’art, la science et la religion, sont des moyens de transmissions privilégiés du génie européen.


3. Les évènements du 11 septembre 2001 ont permis de prendre une conscience accrue de l’importance et de l’urgence d’une éducation au dialogue interculturel et interreligieux.

Il s’agit d’élaborer des projets de formation des enseignants et des étudiants, à vivre une citoyenneté consciente et respectueuse de sa propre identité et de celle d’autrui, dans le contexte d’une société où la diversité ethnique, linguistique et religieuse va sans cesse croissante. Ces programmes ont pour finalité l’éducation au dialogue et requièrent une attention particulière à la recherche des éléments éducatifs fondamentaux qu’il présuppose. Une juste présentation des traditions religieuses et du rôle qu’elles ont joué et qu’elles jouent dans l’humanisation de nos sociétés, réclame une loyale et fructueuse collaboration avec les représentants de ces religions, en vue d’une présentation objective dans les manuels d’histoire. Le Saint-Siège considère l’extrémisme religieux et la violence qu’il entraîne comme une corruption de la religion. Il ne saurait accepter que la religion comme telle soit présentée dans les programmes de formation comme responsable de ces monstruosités.

En ce qui concerne l’enseignement supérieur, je signale l’intention du Saint-Siège de souscrire à la Déclaration de Bologne et de participer à la mise en œuvre de l’espace européen dans l’enseignement supérieur et de la recherche, en y impliquant les institutions universitaires qui dépendent de lui.

L’Europe que nous avons à construire sera pour l’homme, espace de dialogue et de respect entre les cultures, les religions et les peuples. La promotion de l’identité culturelle européenne passe par l’éducation et la transmission d’un héritage, dans l’idéal de la liberté des individus, de la fraternité des peuples, et le respect de toutes les identités dont notre continent est si riche.


*  *  *

On 17th June 2002, Father Laurent Mazas, f.s.j., of the Pontifical Council for Culture, represented the Holy See at a meeting of the New Committee for Culture at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. In his talk on the Promotion of the cultural identity of Europe : the challenge of education, he brought out the importance of basing educational programmes on a correct understanding of the human person and creating the conditions necessary for handing on Europe’s common heritage. Educational methods must also make room for a correct and fair presentation of religions.


El 17 de junio de 2002, el P. Laurent Mazas, F.S.J., del Consejo Pontificio de la Cultura, participó en la reunión del nuevo Comité Director de la Cultura del Consejo de Europa en Estrasburgo, representando a la Santa Sede. En su discurso sobre Promoción de la identidad cultural europea: el desafío de la educación, destacó la importancia de fundamentar los programas de educación sobre un correcto concepto de persona humana y de crear las condiciones necesarias para la transmisión del patrimonio común europeo. En el currículo educativo debe incluirse una correcta y leal presentación de las religiones.


Il 17 giugno 2002, P. Laurent MAZAS, F.S.J., del Pontificio Consiglio della Cultura, ha partecipato, a Strasburgo, in rappresentanza della Santa Sede, alla riunione del Nuovo Comitato direttivo della Cultura del Consiglio d’Europa. Nel suo discorso su Promozione dell’identità culturale europea: la sfida dell’educazione, ha messo in rilievo l’importanza di fondare i programmi d’educazioni sul giusto concetto di persona umana e di creare le condizioni necessarie per la trasmissione del patrimonio comune europeo. Nel percorso educativo deve essere inserito anche la corretta e leale presentazione delle religioni.








Nous, prêtres diocésains1 des cinq diocèses de la Région francophone de la Conférence épiscopale du Pacifique (C.E.PAC), réunis à Tibériade (Tahiti) pour la session quadriennale du Renouveau sacerdotal, en écho à l’Exhortation apostolique post-synodale du pape Jean-Paul II, Ecclesia in Oceania, promulguée le 22 novembre 2001, professons, en ce jour du 25 janvier 2002, fête de la conversion de saint Paul, le Credo missionnaire suivant :


Nous croyons en Dieu, le Père, le Fils et l’Esprit Saint, un seul Dieu créateur, Trinité d’amour, et en Jésus-Christ, Fils incarné du Père, vrai Dieu et vrai homme, unique sauveur du monde, par sa mort, sa résurrection et par l’envoi de l’Esprit Saint, tel que le professe et l’annonce l’Église catholique, présente en Océanie, dont nous sommes les fils prêtres, héritiers des missionnaires qui ont porté dans nos îles, au prix de leur sueur et de leur sang, la foi chrétienne qui nous anime :


1.  Nous croyons que Dieu est le premier responsable et acteur de l’évangélisation.

Nous croyons qu’il nous précède toujours dans la vie des peuples auxquels il nous envoie annoncer la Bonne Nouvelle de son salut en Jésus-Christ.


2.  Nous croyons que chacun, dans l’Église, en vertu de son baptême, et selon son propre état de vie, est appelé par Dieu à prendre une part active à l’œuvre commune d’évangélisation des peuples.

Nous croyons que chacun, dans l’Église doit se laisser d’abord évangéliser soi-même par celui dont il veut annoncer la proximité aimante et salvifique.


3.  Nous croyons que, comme Jésus a été envoyé par son Père à la rencontre de l’humanité pour la ramener vers lui, nous devons reconnaître humblement que nous ne sommes nous-mêmes que des envoyés de Dieu pour aller au-devant de nos peuples d’Océanie pour leur proposer la foi.


4.  Nous croyons que Dieu nous appelle à relever le défi de témoigner, dans la diversité de nos cultures îliennes, du Christ, qui s’est incarné dans une culture particulière, la culture juive, qui nous a été annoncé dans une culture particulière, la culture européenne.

Nous croyons qu’il ne peut être enfermé dans aucune culture parce qu’il les dépasse toutes, lui qui est l’espérance de toutes les cultures, parce qu’il y est déjà présent en germe et y travaille déjà par son Esprit Saint.


5.  Nous croyons que, si Dieu nous appelle à évangéliser sur tous les terrains, le lieu privilégié où il nous envoie proposer la foi est là où les hommes souffrent de la perte du sens de leur vie, tout spécialement auprès des jeunes qui sont confrontés à la mondialisation et à la sécularisation.


6.  Nous croyons que l’inculturation, qui est l’incarnation de l’Évangile dans la diversité des cultures, malgré les objections et les réticences qu’elle rencontre encore, est vitale et urgente pour l’enracinement de la foi chrétienne et l’avenir de l’Église catholique dans nos îles océaniennes.

Nous croyons que cette inculturation passe par une purification et un enrichissement mutuels de la foi et des cultures avec lesquelles la foi entre en dialogue.


7.  Nous croyons que la culture est l’âme d’un peuple, son identité propre qui le distingue de tous les autres peuples, constituée du réseau original et en constante évolution de sa langue, ses traditions, ses coutumes, ses croyances, sa technique, sa pensée propre, lui permettant d’appréhender l’environnement physique et métaphysique dans lequel il vit et d’agir sur cet environnement d’une façon unique.

Nous croyons que l’Église a le devoir de respecter et de promouvoir cette culture, et que les serviteurs de l’Évangile pour ce peuple ont le devoir de la connaître en profondeur.

Nous croyons que la culture de chacun de nos peuples océaniens peut enrichir, par ses valeurs et modèles positifs, la manière dont la foi chrétienne est annoncée, comprise et vécue ; foi chrétienne qui doit elle-même, pour cela, être purifiée de certains éléments culturels étrangers souvent imposés à l’époque de la première évangélisation.


8.  Nous croyons que la culture de chacun de nos peuples océaniens est le fruit d’une histoire sainte par laquelle Dieu a déjà conduit ces peuples jusqu’au Christ, et qu’elle est aussi appelée à se laisser purifier par l’Évangile qui entre en dialogue avec elle.

Nous croyons que la culture de chacun de nos peuples océaniens est appelée à laisser transformer en elle certains modèles et valeurs qui sont en contradiction avec le message d’amour du Christ et à se laisser libérer des désordres introduits en elle par le péché, pour un développement ultérieur de ses aspirations les plus profondes, à la lumière de la foi.


9.  Nous croyons qu’au début de ce nouveau millénaire, l’Église nous confie, à nous, prêtres diocésains océaniens, sous la direction de nos évêques, et en collaboration avec les missionnaires et tous les fidèles, la charge d’engager de façon décisive ce processus d’inculturation, dans la fidélité au Christ, à la Tradition authentique de l’Église, et dans le respect de la « multiculturalité » de nos sociétés mélangées et de la communion ecclésiale.

Nous croyons que l’Église nous encourage donc à former notre discernement théologique et pastoral, avec l’aide de spécialistes des sciences sacrées et de spécialistes des cultures, pour mener à bien cette oeuvre d’inculturation.


10.  Nous croyons que la catéchèse, qui est la manière de l’Église de s’évangéliser elle-même, est par nature communautaire.

Nous croyons qu’elle doit concerner la communauté entière (universelle, diocésaine, paroissiale) qui est le lieu de la transmission, de la célébration et de la maturation de la vie de foi. Elle concerne la communauté d’abord comme responsable collectivement de la formation à la foi et à la vie chrétienne ; ensuite comme destinataire de cette même formation, au travers de la diversité de tous ses membres, enfants, jeunes et adultes ; enfin comme bénéficiaire de cette formation, en tant qu’elle est une préparation à la vie communautaire.

Nous croyons que cette catéchèse renouvelée ne doit pas être seulement un enseignement intellectuel sur Dieu mais aussi une expérience de Dieu, pas seulement une préparation aux sacrements mais aussi un apprentissage de la vie chrétienne.

Nous sommes convaincus que la catéchèse requiert l’engagement enthousiaste des prêtres et la formation de tous les intervenants ecclésiaux dans les domaines psychologique, pédagogique, biblique, théologique, etc. pour adapter les programmes à la culture du peuple et trouver les moyens adéquats de rejoindre chacun dans sa situation particulière.

Mais nous croyons qu’elle engage aussi les uns et les autres à donner le témoignage d’une foi vivante en communauté qui informe leur vie quotidienne.


11.  Nous croyons que l’eucharistie, qui fait la communauté chrétienne et que fait la communauté, réunie autour du prêtre à qui elle a été confiée, doit garder, dans nos communautés chrétiennes océaniennes et dans la vie de chaque prêtre océanien, la place centrale qu’elle y occupe depuis la première évangélisation.

Nous croyons qu’il faut, pour cela :

–  favoriser l’inculturation de sa célébration (langue utilisée, symboles et gestes significatifs pris de la culture) ;

–  améliorer sa préparation par les fidèles pour une meilleure participation de tous au mémorial de notre salut ;

–  former les fidèles à une meilleure compréhension de l’eucharistie non seulement comme présence réelle de jésus ressuscité mais aussi comme participation active à son sacrifice offert pour notre salut ;

–  cultiver au cœur des fidèles le désir de Jésus et l’esprit d’attente, surtout nécessaire dans les zones où le prêtre ne passe que rarement et où les communautés chrétiennes se réunissent le dimanche, animées par des responsables laïcs.

Nous croyons que la célébration communautaire de l’eucharistie, ainsi vécue, sera toujours plus évangélisatrice pour les chrétiens ; elle les engagera toujours plus sur un chemin intérieur de conversion à une vie authentiquement chrétienne et sur les chemins du monde comme serviteurs de l’Évangile.


(publiée dans Esprit et Vie no 56, avril 2002, 2e quinzaine, p. 42-43)


*  *  *


Young priests from the five dioceses in the French-speaking region of the Pacific Bishops’ Conference (C.E.PAC.) – New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna, Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands – compiled and adopted a Missionary Creed that echoed several points in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania.

Los sacerdotes jóvenes de las cinco diócesis de la Región Francófona de la Conferencia Episcopal del Pacífico (C.E.PAC) –Nueva Caledonia, Vanuati, Wallis y Futuna, Tahití y las Islas Marquesas– han redactado y adoptado un Credo Misionero, recogiendo el eco de la Exhortación Apostólica Post-Sinodal Ecclesia in Oceania.

I giovani sacerdoti delle cinque diocesi della Regione francofona della Conferenza Episcopale del Pacifico (C.E.PAC) – Nuova Caledonia, Vanuatu, Wallis e Futuna, Tahiti e le Isole Marquises – hanno redatto e adottato un Credo missionario, quale eco all’Esortazione Apostolica post-sinodale Ecclesia in Oceania.



1 À l’issue de la retraite animée par Mgr Marc Stenger, évêque de Troyes, sur le thème : Le prêtre, serviteur de l’Évangile pour un peuple, les jeunes prêtres (dix ans d’ordination) des diocèses francophones d’Océanie : Nouvelle-Calédonie, Vanuatu, Wallis et Futuna, Tahiti et les Îles Marquises ont rédigé et adopté ce texte.