The Holy See
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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:

  1. - 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).

  2. - 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. 2).

  3. 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).

  4. - 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).

  5. - 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).

  6. - 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).

  7. - 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.).

  8. - To co-operate with Catholic universities and international organisations of a historical, philosophical, theological, scientific, artistic or intellectual nature, and to promote co-operation amongst them.

  9. - 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.).

  10. - To keep up with the cultural policies and activities of governments throughout the world (Cf. ibid.).

  11. - 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.).

  12. - 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 dialogue.

2. The structure of the Council

The Pontifical Council for Culture has two sections: 1. Faith and Culture, 2. Dialogue with Cultures.

  1. Day-to-day work is entrusted to the permanent staff resident in Rome, viz.:
    • the President, H. Em. Gianfranco Card. Ravasi  (Italy)
    • the Delegate, H. E. Msgr. Carlos Moreira Azevedo (Portugal)
    • the Secretary, H. E. Msgr. Barthélemy Adoukonou (Benin)
    • the Under-secretary, Msgr. Melchor Sánchez de Toca y Alameda (Spain)
    • the Head of Office, Msgr. Gergely Kovács (Romania)
    • 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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 the Council.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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, etc.

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.

Postal address: Pontificium Consilium de Cultura
V-00120 Vatican City
Telephone: +39 06 6989 3811
Fax: +39 06 6988 7368 or 7165


last updated: 5 March 2012