THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR CULTURE
The history of the Pontificium Consilium de Cultura,
the Pontifical Council for Culture, dates back to the Second Vatican Council. A
whole section of that Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church – Gaudium
et Spes – emphasises the fundamental importance of culture for the full
development of the human person, the many ways in which salvation and culture
are linked, and the mutual enrichment of the Church and cultures throughout the
history of civilisations (Gaudium et Spes, 53-62).
Pope Paul VI wrote, in a document which harvested the fruits of the work which
went into the Synod of Bishops on evangelisation, held in the autumn of 1974:
"The Gospel, and therefore evangelisation, are certainly not identical with
culture, and they are independent in regard to all cultures. Nevertheless, the
Kingdom which the Gospel proclaims is lived by men who are profoundly linked to
a culture, and the building up of the Kingdom cannot avoid borrowing the
elements of human culture or cultures. Though independent of cultures, the
Gospel and evangelisation are not necessarily incompatible with them; rather
they are capable of permeating them all without becoming subject to any one of
them" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 20).
Building on the riches inherited from Paul VI, the Second
Vatican Council and the Synod of Bishops, John Paul II founded the Pontifical
Council for Culture in 1982 (Personal Letter to the Cardinal Secretary of
State, 20 May 1982). In his Motu Proprio Apostolic Letter Inde a
Pontificatus of 25 March 1993, John Paul II merged the Pontifical Council
for Dialogue with Non-Believers (founded in 1965 by Paul VI) with the Pontifical
Council for Culture.
1. The Council’s Aims and Tasks
A. - The
Pontifical Council for Culture is that department (Dicastery) of the Roman Curia
which assists the Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the
benefit and service of the universal Church and of particular Churches
concerning the encounter between the saving message of the Gospel and cultures,
in the study of the weighty phenomena of: the rift between the Gospel and
cultures; indifference in matters of religion; unbelief. It is also concerned
with relationships between the Church and the Holy See and the world of culture;
in particular it promotes dialogue with contemporary cultures, so that human
civilisation may become increasingly open to the Gospel, and so that men and
women of science, letters and the arts may know that the Church acknowledges
their work as a service to truth, goodness and beauty.
Furthermore, the Pontifical Council for Culture oversees and co-ordinates the
activities of the Pontifical Academies, and co-operates on a regular basis with
the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church.
B. - The Council has
been given the following tasks:
- To promote the encounter between the saving
message of the Gospel and the cultures of our time, often marked by unbelief
or religious indifference, in order that they may be increasingly open to
the Christian faith, which creates culture and is an inspirational source of
science, literature and the arts (Cf. the Motu Proprio "Inde a
Pontificatus", Art. 1).
- To manifest the Church’s pastoral concern in
the face of the serious phenomena of the rift between the Gospel and
cultures. It therefore promotes the study of the problem of unbelief and
religious indifference found in various forms in different cultural milieus,
inquiring into their causes and the consequences for Christian faith, in
order to offer adequate support to the Church’s pastoral activity in
evangelising cultures and inculturating the Gospel (Cf. ibid., Art.
3. To foster the Church’s and the Holy See’s
relations with the world of culture, by undertaking appropriate initiatives
concerning the dialogue between faith and cultures, and intercultural
dialogue. The Council oversees initiatives undertaken by the Church’s
various institutions and offers its co-operation to the corresponding organs
of Bishops’ Conferences (Cf. ibid., Art. 3).
- To establish dialogue with those who do not
believe in God or who profess no religion, provided they are open to genuine
co-operation. The Council organises and participates in study congresses in
this field by means of experts (Cf. ibid., Art. 4).
- To oversee and co-ordinate the activities of the
Pontifical Academies (Cf. ibid., II and the 1982 letter of
foundation), while respecting the autonomy of their respective research
programmes, so as to promote multidisciplinary research and to make the work
of the Academies more widely known (Norms for the renewal of the
Pontifical Academies, 7).
- To be involved in the cultural concerns
encountered by the departments of the Holy See in the course of their work,
and to work on projects organised together with some of them, in such a way
as to facilitate their tasks in the evangelisation of cultures, and to
ensure co-ordination between the Holy See’s cultural institutions (Cf.
1982 letter of foundation).
- To enter into dialogue with Bishops’
Conferences, and with Conferences of Major Religious Superiors, in order to
allow the whole Church to benefit from research programmes and other
initiatives, achievements and productions which allow local Churches to take
an active part in their own cultural environment (Cf. ibid.).
- To co-operate with Catholic universities and
international organisations of a historical, philosophical, theological,
scientific, artistic or intellectual nature, and to promote co-operation
- To keep up with the activities of international
bodies like UNESCO and the Council of Europe, which are concerned with
culture, the philosophy of science and human sciences, and to ensure the
effective participation of the Holy See in international congresses
concerned with science, culture and education (Cf. ibid.).
- To keep up with the cultural policies and
activities of governments throughout the world (Cf. ibid.).
- To facilitate Church-culture dialogue at the
level of universities and research centres, organisations of artists and
specialists, researchers and scholars, and to promote meetings of note in
and through these sectors of culture (Cf. ibid.).
- To welcome to Rome representatives of culture
interested in a better understanding of the Church’s activities in this
field, and in ways of allowing the Holy See to benefit from their rich
experience, by offering them a place in Rome where they can meet and
2. The structure of the Council
The Pontifical Council for Culture has two sections: 1. Faith and Culture, 2.
Dialogue with Cultures.
- Day-to-day work is entrusted to the permanent staff resident in
- the President, H. Em. Gianfranco Card. Ravasi (Italy)
- the Delegate, H. E. Msgr. Carlos
- the Secretary, H. E. Msgr. Barthélemy Adoukonou (Benin)
- the Under-secretary, Msgr. Melchor Sánchez
de Toca y
- the Head of Office, Msgr. Gergely Kovács
- the Officials, 6 priests and 1 lay man who are responsible for
geographical areas and the various fields in which the Council works
(science, art and artists, communications
media, Catholic cultural centres, Pontifical Academies, and so on).
- 7 other administrative and technical assistants.
- The Council has a Plenary Assembly at least once every three years.
Its purpose is to evaluate and plan the department’s programmes, and to
pool experiences and reflections on the variety of cultural situations in
contemporary societies. All of this is done in the context of evangelisation
and the Church’s dialogue with cultures. Those who are invited are the Members
of the Council, cardinals and bishops appointed by the Holy Father for
five-year terms. At present there are 22 cardinals and 11 archbishops and
bishops from various parts of the world, 1 priest and 2 lay persons.
- The Council also relies on Consultors for the study of particularly
important questions. These, too, are appointed by the Holy Father for
five-year terms. There are currently 33 of them: they come from all over the
world, and are specialists in the field of culture or in dialogue with
non-believers. They assist the Council by their research and the information
and opinions they provide.
3. Activities of the Council
The Council’s many and varied activities can be condensed into 5 points:
Welcoming visitors. There are meetings with
bishops who come to Rome for their five-yearly Ad limina visits, and
with other groups of visitors (priests, religious, directors of cultural
centres and so on). Many people representing the world of culture also visit
Conferences. The Council organises seminars, study
days and various other kinds of meetings. It is frequently involved in
meetings run by other bodies at regional, national and international levels.
Contacts. The Council is in contact with the other
departments (Dicasteries) of the Holy See, with bishops’ conferences and
local Churches, with the Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, with the
Holy See’s diplomatic representatives to other states, with UNESCO and
other international non-government organisations.
Publications. The Council publishes a quarterly
review entitled Culture e Fede – Cultures et Foi – Cultures and Faith
– Culturas y Fe, which has articles and new items in English, French,
Italian and Spanish. There are, in addition, books and booklets on the many
aspects of the encounter between the Gospel and cultures, and on
intercultural dialogue. The Council publishes the proceedings of the more
important conferences it organises.
Day-to-day work consists of the various types of
tasks entrusted to the staff: taking care of correspondence with the
universal Church and the world of culture, preparing observations on reports
concerning the state of dioceses, preparing instructions for Papal Nuncios,
4. Contacting the Pontifical Council for Culture
The Council’s offices are in Via della Conciliazione, n. 5 (I-00193 Roma). The offices are open
from Monday to Saturday from 08.00 to 13.30, and on Tuesdays and Fridays from
16.00 to 18.00, too.
||Pontificium Consilium de Cultura
V-00120 Vatican City
||+39 06 6989 3811
||+39 06 6988 7368 or 7165
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