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Rome, October 15, 1992

PROT. 121/ 90/ 20

Your Eminence (Excellency),

Please forgive us if this Pontifical Commission has so often addressed this Episcopal Conference looking for information and underlining the duties which concern us in the pastoral work of promoting, protecting, conserving, the Church's artistic and historical heritage.

In his Apostolic Constitution "Pastor bonus", Pope John Paul II already asked us to "adlaborare ut Populus Dei magis magisque conscius fiat momenti et necessitatis patrimonium historiae et artis Ecclesiae conservandi" (Art. 103). But we also abide to a universal request which comes from the entire Church and the entire world, not to forget the role of ecclesiastical cultural goods in carrying out the work of evangelization (and for the sake of the "new evangelization") as a primary stimulus for dialogue among cultures and for illustrating the Christian Mystery.

It is in this spirit that I am happy to send to Your Eminence (Excellency) the enclosed Circular letter regarding the cultural and pastoral training of future priests in their upcoming responsibilities concerning the artistic and historic heritage of the Church.

This Circular was preceded by an accurate preparatory study. It was drawn up in view of the general request, forwarded by all churches, to intensify the awareness of future priests regarding the value of artistic and historic collections. This seems to constitute the most evident deficiency and need at the present time. The initiative has been followed closely by our Holy Father John Paul II. It has received the cordial approval of the Congregations involved in the training of future priests: namely, the Congregation for the Evangelization of People, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and naturally the Congregation for Catholic Education.

I'm enclosing, along with the Circular letter addressed to Your Eminence (Excellency), a couple of extra copies for each Bishop of this Episcopal Conference. Asking You the courtesy to forward the document to their respective seats. I will be happy if Your Eminence (Excellency) could make it a subject of discussion in the agenda of one of the next general assemblies of this same Conference.

I have chosen to send the Circular during this current academic year retaining that ‑ if this document will become subject of a study by the staff of educators and teachers of the major seminaries during the months of the seminary year 1993‑4 - the seminaries' scholastic programs and subsequent activities may become in tune with the suggestions put forth by this Circular by the academic year 1993‑4.

To the Cardinals and Bishops
Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences

I would be grateful if Your Eminence (Excellency) could send us adequate information on the decision taken once the major seminaries, under the jurisdiction of the Bishops of this Episcopal Conference, have delineated the academic programs and specific initiatives which put into practice the points of our Circular. This will allow us to circulate the information of what has been thought through and decided in each particular case to the various Churches.

I thank Your Eminence (Excellency) for Your kind attention to the problems and tasks put forth by our Circular. I'm sure that You will share this spirit of renewed effort towards the vehicles of art, archival or library documents which contribute even today ‑ just like in the most fruitful moments of the Church ‑ to the active presence of Christian values in pastoral work and as reflections of civilization and culture.

I send to You and to my Most Reverend Brothers of the Episcopal Conference my best regards and wishes, hoping to have been of some use in the delicate training activity of Their future priests.

Sincerely Yours in Jesus Christ




Circular letter regarding the cultural and pastoral training
of future priests in their upcoming responsibilities
concerning the artistic and historic heritage of the Church

Rome, October 15,1992

PROT. 121/90/18

Your Eminence/Excellency,

Our Holy Father John Paul II, earnestly desiring a fruitful valorization of the cultural goods of the Church in the work of evangelization as called for by recent historical events and concerned for the protection of this precious artistic and historic heritage of the Church and of humanity as a whole, has sought to stimulate a renewed dynamism in the Church regarding these values. He therefore established a new Organism within the Roman Curia, which could take care of this particular area of pastoral and cultural activity.

As the Apostolic Constitution "Pastor bonus" became effective, on March 1,1989 the Pontifical Commission for the Conservation of the Artistic and Historic Patrimony of the Church began its activity.

One of the primary and constant concerns which emerged from the survey carried out on the current situation of the artistic and historic collections of the Church throughout the world, is that without a renewed effort on the part of the clergy regarding the conservation of these goods and their cultural and pastoral valorization, and an awareness of their role in the work of evangelization, the liturgy, and the deepening of the faith, that new dynamic wished for by the Constitution "Pastor bonus", will hardly be possible (1).

In addition, we notice the troublesome phenomenon of the improper use of a number of artistic and historic collections of the Church, which have been subtracted from the location for which they were originally intended in order to become part of private dwellings or collections. This occurs either because of the arbitrary actions sometimes carried out by those responsible for the custody of such goods or more often because of the increasing phenomenon of theft. In either case, it is indispensable that priests themselves assume the responsibility of caring for the artistic and historic collections of the Christian community while carrying out an effort for their protection and custody.

On numerous occasions the Holy See has emphasized and called to the attention of pastors this duty by underlining how indispensable it is for them to have, already by the time of their first years of priestly formation, a profound understanding of the value of sacred art. They should be aware of the importance of setting up, protecting and using properly ecclesiastical archives, and of ensuring the conservation and promotion of the library collections for the Christian communities (2).

As we will mention in this very text, the "Ratio Fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis", echoing the conciliar Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium", has requested that Sacred Liturgy, one of the principal subjects for theological studies, be presented "in connection with other subjects" (3). Within the "Norms" issued by various episcopates for the preparation of the clergy in their respective nations, the following subjects have been included: sacred art, archaeology, archive studies, and library studies as part of the liturgical and pastoral formation. This has been done in order to promote in their future priests an adequate sensitivity and preparation regarding their future responsibility in the area of the artistic and historic collections of the Church.

After an accurate examination of the different situations which one meets in the various particular churches, this Pontifical Commission considers it part of its own task ‑ in collaboration with the Congregation for Catholic Education ‑ to address this letter to the Most Reverend Bishops, to whose care the integral formation of future priests has been assigned, in order to suggest an intensification or the recovery of an effort in promoting an ad equate sensitivity and responsibility concerning the valorization, conservation, custody, and fruition of the artistic and historic collections of the Church on the part of all those who are preparing themselves for the priesthood.


1. Throughout the centuries the Church has traditionally perceived the promotion, the custody, and the valorization of the highest expressions of the human spirit in the artistic and historic fields as an integral part of her ministry.

Besides carrying out a relationship of its own with the integral promotion of man through various cultural and educational initiatives, the Church has announced the Gospel and has perfected the divine cult in many ways with the aid of literary and figurative arts, music, architecture, and by conserving the historic memories and the precious documents of the life and reflection of her faithful. Thanks to these means the message of salvation has been communicated, and continues to be communicated today, to entire multitudes of believers and non‑believers.

This constant attention of the Church has enriched humanity with an immense treasure of testimonials of human ingenuity and its adhesion to the faith. This constitutes a conspicuous part of the cultural patrimony of humanity.

2. The Second Vatican Council, too, has solemnly recalled this responsibility and this ministry of the Church (4). With regard to sacred art, it has dwelled particularly on the artistic formation of the clergy: "The clergy, during the philosophical and theological courses of studies, should also be taught the history and development of sacred art, as well as the healthy principles on which the works of sacred art must be founded, in order that they might appreciate and conserve the venerable monuments of the Church and they might offer adequate advice to artists for the realization of their works"(5). The Council, in fact, has taken into account two important components of the problem, which we would like to submit now to the attention of those individuals and institutions responsible for the formation of future priests.

3. Today, on the one hand, we notice a strong growing awareness of the value of the people's artistic and cultural patrimony taking place in various parts of the world and within different cultures. A new concern has been dedicated to this area. New and more abundant resources have been employed for its conservation and use. Louder cries of protest have been sounded against the risk of its dispersion and destruction.

While humanity has registered the failure of a model of life based on the consumption of the ephemeral and on the uncontested power of technology and while those ideologies which have closed their doors to human transcendence and man's spirituality are now crumbling, we notice a growing appeal for the fruition of those goods typical of the human spirit and characteristic of the superior manifestations of man's genius. In a world menaced by new forms of cruelty and crossed by an increasingly impressive migratory flux which exposes entire populations to live almost uprooted from their own humus, a growing number of men and women are becoming sensitive to the humanizing value of artistic and cultural expressions. As a consequence, there is a growing conviction that their adequate conservation, their protection against dispersion and instrumentalization (which results from their use according to economic standards alone), and their valorization as vehicles of the meaning and value of human life, is truly important for the future of humanity as a whole.

4. On the other hand, we are aware that the effort and the responsibility of contributing to this work of humanization, to this care of the "supplement of the soul" which must be guaranteed to the modem world, gravitate particularly on the Church and ‑ within the Christian community ‑ fall above all on the shoulders of the clergy. Under the guidance of the Bishops and the Successor of St. Peter, they preside authoritatively and guide the work of evangelization which is carried out also through the promotion, the care and the use of cultural goods. To them has been assigned in a very special way the wise and enlightened work of conservation of the community's goods of which a consistent part comes from the works of human ingenuity and the precious testimonials of our fathers' faith. In addition, they have to become promoters of a constant dialogue between the ecclesiastical community and men of culture and artists. This serves to renew a tradition which has given life to immortal masterpieces while contributing to the interior enrichment of art itself, of the community of faithful, and of humanity as a whole.

5. Keeping in mind these considerations and in view of the recent survey conducted by the Pontifical Commission for the Conservation of the Artistic and Historic Patrimony of the Church in the individual particular Churches, we have to say unfortunately that in many cases the preparation of the clergy for this task during these recent years has been quite weak and incomplete if not entirely absent.

It is true that in our modem world priests find themselves facing numerous, urgent and complex problems connected with the work of evangelization and the pastoral guidance of their community. But it is also true that their capacity of managing and evaluating correctly the cultural goods assigned to them is part of their mission which, on the basis of the preceding considerations, certainly does not constitute a secondary or negligible factor. Even in those cases where the relationship between priests and cultural goods is suitably mediated by competent lay people and expert consultants, the ultimate responsibility and above all the pastoral purpose of the use of these goods remains the primary responsibility of those who preside over the community and this requires an adequate preparation.

The negative consequences of a lack of aesthetic and pastoral sensitivity in the management of cultural goods are in many cases evident. They have often been the reason for a justified complaint on the part of ecclesiastical and civil authorities. Thefts have been caused at times by of a serious lack of protection, because of damages, improper and destructive use, illegal sales, incomplete and devastating restorations, inadequate care of the collections, difficulty of dialogue or sterile relations with the world of artiste and experts (6).

6. In view of these phenomena a renewed attention on the part of the entire Church to this problem seems increasingly urgent. Much has been done and much is being carried out even today to correct errors and to prevent negligences. But more remains to be done above all in the area of a renewed sensitivity and information regarding the importance of this primary aspect of the service of the Church in proclaiming the Gospel message and in supporting the true progress of humanity.

Thus, we believe we are facing a real problem whose importance must not escape anyone. It assumes a characteristic of particular urgency if one considers its pertinence to the great task of new evangelization. An adequate solution to this problem will be able to offer new and efficient possibilities in the fields of catechesis, and liturgical pastoral activity, and in a more general way in the area of promotion and diffusion of culture. The latter aspect has never been considered extraneous to the concerns of the Church for the integral development of humanity.

7. On the basis of these considerations, it seems fitting to the Pontifical Commission for the Conservation of the Artistic and Historic Patrimony of the Church to offer to the Most Reverend Bishops and particularly to those responsible for priestly and religious formation a specific contribution to meditate on, along with some practical suggestions on the subject of the preparation of future priests concerning the promotion, protection, and valorization of cultural goods.

Thus we recall and renew a long known tradition which has involved the Church, and in particular the Supreme Pontiffs and the Dicasteries of the Holy See, in often emphasizing solemnly the importance of this problem and the ways to approach it in an efficient manner (7).

The present contribution is very much in agreement with the reflections inspired by the recent Synod of Bishops concerning priestly formation Among the "current circumstances" recalled by this Synod's theme, we can identify in fact what we have already mentioned above. In more than one intervention by synod fathers the theme of cultural goods as ways for evangelization and promotion of the faith has been referred to more or less directly. We find this echoed in the Apostolic Exhortation of our Holy Father John Paul II (8).

8. We intend here to put forth some observations and suggest some priorities regarding four principal points: first and foremost the aim of this intervention and the educational aspects which it intends to underline; second, an analysis of the educational itinerary as a whole and its principal individual components, in order to dwell – as our third point – on the scholastic‑intellectual aspect of this kind of formation. Finally, we will turn to some other considerations regarding the educators and the suitable instruments for an adequate preparation of priests in the promotion, conservation, and valorization of the patrimony of cultural goods assigned to their care.


9. This document intends to aid those responsible for the formation of candidates for the priesthood by defining the educational itinerary and above all by suggesting the operative ways and the initiatives turned toward making future priests aware of their task regarding the artistic and historic collections of the Church while inserting these ways organically within their educational curriculum.

Since it deals with beginning or defining an educational program which in recent years has been interrupted or has suffered delays or gaps for various reasons in many ecclesiastical circles, the principal preoccupation is to stimulate a profound reflection on the present situation, the needs and necessities, the resources available or to be employed, in order to create the conditions for setting up concrete initiatives in a gradual and well thought-out manner.

Let us not forget that this is a problem faced in the permanent formation of the clergy as well. However, we want to concentrate our attention at least for the time being on the initial formation of future priests.

10. What we intend to say refers particularly to candidates for the priesthood affiliated to the diocesan Clergy, the Institutes of consecrated life and the Societies of apostolic life. Considering, however, the great responsibility of so many religious lay people and religious women working with cultural goods, this letter is also addressed to candidates being trained in Institutes of consecrated life and lay Societies of apostolic life, male and female, so that they might also be prepared to take into account this aspect of their apostolic activity.

11. We certainly do not mean to prepare experts on the subject of the management of cultural goods. What we want to achieve is simply that pastors acquire that kind of sensitivity and competence which can permit them to attentively evaluate the extent of the values concerned so that they might, on the given occasion, benefit correctly from the collaboration of experts without depending on excessive delegation. Priests must be trained to educate the community under their care to these values. They must be able to collaborate correctly with associations, public and private administrations and organizations dedicated to the protection and promotion of art and the various forms of culture.

12. The area we are referring to does not only include sacred art (architecture, painting, sculpture, mosaics, music, internal decorating, and every other art form connected with the making of the liturgy and the cult), but also libraries, archives, museums many of which are still emerging today and are being renovated or up‑dated with a particular ecclesiastical qualification. The promotion and the care of all these areas is meant to be considered as a service of great value offered to the entire Christian community under whose protection remains such a conspicuous part of the cultural patrimony of humanity.


13. Before expressing some particular suggestions, we want to recall that particularly in our case of a typical "pastoral formation"; our concern is not only to guarantee the transmission of notions or information regarding cultural goods. More than that, we intend to trace an itinerary of formation which, under various aspects and with different means, wants to ensure the growth of a mature sensitivity for these values in the context of an educational project for every seminary or house of studies.

Cultural goods must be known and appreciated by educated persons who will be able to understand their global value and to benefit from the contemplation of those truths which they communicate.

We find ourselves confronted with a problem that is not only an academic one, but whose roots extend to the global formation of an individual's sensitivity. Consequently, under this perspective and for the majority of cases regarding future priests, it will mean integrating a culture, which in various parts of the world seems to become increasingly technical and efficient. This does not spontaneously favor the assertion of a humanistic mentality which represents an indispensable premise for correctly evaluating the highest and most authentic expressions of the human spirit.

14. The formation must deal above all with this kind of integration particularly if the candidates for the priesthood come from an environment characterized by a prevalent unilateral technical culture and a "scientific mentality", presenting thus serious gaps from the point of view of aesthetic experience, historic and literary sensitivity, a "participating" consciousness toward the artistic world, and above all the capacity of understanding these values.

Students should be involved personally in the learning of this "humanism" which, in its most noble and balanced meaning, reveals itself to be that in dispensable premise and necessary accompaniment for welcoming the evangelical message on the part of single individuals or cultures. As one can perceive, this does not entail only an intellectual effort but rather a global growth of the individual in terms of the level of maturity of his sensitivity, of his religious belief and worship, and his cultural, spiritual, and pastoral levels.

The educational programs of seminaries and houses of studies must enrich themselves in many ways and on selected and planned occasions by suitable experiences and stimuli aimed at increasing this global maturity.

15. It is wise to recall here that the environment where this education takes place represents already in itself a place for educational potential. Even a simple or modem environment will be more or less able to facilitate an atmosphere of recollection and to increase the growth of an adequate aesthetic sensitivity. This is even more hue if one lives in places filled with history and art.

16. Communal life itself can also be important for our objective. Stimulating a sense of active participation and assuming one's responsibility, teaching a spirit of collaboration together with an understanding of one's own limits, increasing the respect for the gifts of others and the capacity of exploiting these gifts by guiding them to the service of the Gospel, are just some of the components of this aspect of education for the presbyteral ministry.

The failure to acquire these human qualities can be one of the more immediate causes of immature behavior with regard to the historic and artistic heritage or of the difficulties encountered in carrying out a correct and fruitful dialogue with the world of artists. Nothing can inhibit an appreciation of the hue and the beautiful more than a narrow mentality.

17. Spiritual formation also assumes great importance in this master. The liturgical life has a very important role in the education of aesthetic sensitivity. The first art school is made up of the celebrations which are held in the formation community. They should be exemplary even in an artistic point of view. This entails a constant verification of their level and their quality in order to avoid opposite excesses of carelessness or bizarre and overwhelming refinement, both contrary to good aesthetic sense.

Communal and individual prayer are also important moments of formation for an artistic sensitivity deeply integrated in the experience of faith itself. Those responsible for spiritual formation must therefore educate to prayer in such a way as to leave space for the dimensions of sensitivity, imagination, and aesthetic contemplation. The latter; if well inserted in the experience of grace and in the welcoming of the Spirit, is by no means distracting or evasive. It is in fact a vehicle for a more profound celebration of "the great works of the Lord."

18. Pastoral practice often meets problems associated with sacred art and art in general.

It is thus necessary that future priests be helped out first of all in not ignoring these problems but in knowing how to recognize, evaluate, and confront them with prudence and pastoral intelligence. Already during their first ministerial experiences, they will thus become aware of the responsibilities that await them as guides of the community of faithful in such a fascinating world rich in resources, but also in need of purification and orientation.


19. What we have said so far certainly does not intend to underestimate the specific contribution of intellectual formation to a solution of our problem through an appropriate structure of academic courses. We only want to place this decisive and essential area of formation within the wider context of the global growth of an individual which should also constitute the aim of academic training.

In the following suggestions we will abide by the indications of the Ratio Fundamentalis which wisely recommend not to "multiply the number of subjects but to try to insert adequately in the already existing ones new issues and aspects." (9)

20. In order to integrate the gaps of past curricula of studies one should favor the contribution of a good high school training in the minor seminary as much as possible or other forms of educational and cultural training of vocations in the first adolescent years.

In the recent Synod of Bishops on the training of future priests many Fathers have dwelled on the necessity of proposing to young and adult vocations an introductory year of theology. During this time one could find adequate placement of courses in art history, history of civilization, and philosophy which can prove to be of great help to the maturity of the humanistic and artistic sensitivity. The post‑synodal document has welcomed this request (10).

21. Philosophy courses should rightly include the presentation of a sufficient group of issues concerning aesthetics.

Systematic theology can present many important themes referring to the "form" of revelation. The latter can be evaluated not only in the light of the transcendentals, the true and the good, but also the beautiful, an aspect too often ignored (11).

Spiritual theology, in particular, will be able to influence positively in this sense through an analysis of subjects like iconology or the influence of the aesthetic element in general on the rise of the most elevated Christian experiences.

The teaching of canoe law should include an analysis of important canons that concern the management of cultural goods and works of art.

The role of the teaching of the liturgy is all the more important since it should emphasize the expressive and communicative value of faith which can be attributed to works of architecture, painting, sculpture music in relations to the sacramental celebrations and the cult.

This is also true for ecclesiastical history and patrology which offer a wide range of possibilities to highlight the creativity of the Christian faith, its capacity to accept and elevate various artistic expressions, the profound relationship which exists between theological reflection, and the inculturation of faith and works of art.

Finally even in pastoral theology, which has recently acquired greater attention in ecclesiastical studies, there are wide areas in which the themes of sacred art, cultural goods, and the role of pastors of the Christian community as responsible guides for such goods, can be treated according to new viewpoints.

22. While recommending, as we mentioned earlier, not to multiply needlessly academic courses, the Ratio Fundamentalis has recognized the role and the importance of special courses and elective subjects (12).

Some national episcopates intent on elaborating the "Norms" for their own seminaries have taken up this initiative (13). They have suggested that courses be planned in which history and the principles of sacred art, Christian archeology, archive science, and library science be included. Such courses can contribute in selecting a number of students who can major in these subjects in order that they might also be able to become a stimulus and an aid to their fellow brothers.

23. We wish that during the revision and up‑dating of all the "Norms" of each Episcopal Conference this section of subject areas be specifically planned for since it falls under the general theme of the "cultural and pastoral formation regarding ecclesiastical cultural goods." We can even say that it is possible right now that every seminary and houses of studies delineate and intensify a specific program on this subject by evaluating the space available within the co‑natural subject matters for the theme of the artistic and historic heritage, as we indicated above (14).

The publication of adequate manuals could be of great use in this sense. They could present, in a unified manner, the essential theses regarding the complex juridical, liturgical, aesthetic, pastoral and technical issue of conservation, restoration, management, and responsibility toward the cultural goods of the Church and the role of future priests in this area.

24. In terms of academic orientation and academic life in general, we should finally underline the utility of specific initiatives such as meetings with artiste and art critics, participation in some of the major artistic events, information and visits to diocesan institutions (for example, diocesan museums, archives, libraries), visits to the most important religious and civil monuments of the diocese.

A direct encounter with the world of art and history, either through a personal acquaintance with those working in this field or through a personal contact with works of art and historic documents, constitutes a particularly efficient educational experience which can not be substituted by theoretical lessons given in school.


25. All those responsible for the actual formation should be required to have a good sensitivity toward the problem underlined here because, as we hope to have demonstrated, the acquisition of the right sensitivity in the field of promotion, protection, and valorization of cultural goods depends on various factors which involve the responsibility of all the different components of a seminary education.

Among faculty members, the professors of liturgy and ecclesiastical history acquire particular importance since they embody more directly and explicitly the role of educators of a good aesthetic sensitivity. In this respect the professor of Pastoral Theology has an essential role.

It maybe superfluous to point out that the indications we have mentioned require on the part of these faculty members and in various ways on the part of the entire educational staff of the seminaries and houses of studies a conspicuous effort to keep their professional level up to date.

26. It would be wise in this sense to provide specialized training for those faculty members which could be charged to teach subjects like pastoral work, sacred art, Christian archeology, archive science, library science. Besides what has already been admirably done in many parts of the world as well as by Pontifical Institutes in Rome (15), one could study the possibility of coordinating the available resources and establishing a project for the formation of ecclesiastical workers for cultural goods in each nation or region. This way they could be offered not only the necessary high scientific competence but also the required theological and ecclesiastical sensitivity along with a specific training in teaching these subjects, particularly in seminaries and houses of studies.

Once such programs of specialized training have been set up, those educators and teachers who will then be employed in the educational institutions which offer training for future priests regarding their responsibility in the field of the Church's cultural goods, can be invited to attend.

27. The subject matters involved in the formation of future priests in this particular field are also often subjects taught, either wholly or in part, in the various state or private university departments as part of the bachelor's or masters degrees. It's important that such cultural institutions, particularly those connected with in Catholic Universities, constitute a point of reference and an opportunity for comparison and dialogue for the educational activity of the seminaries and the houses of studies. A similar suggestion can be made concerning museums, library facilities, and non-ecclesiastical archives, which often through various organizational means, carry out interesting cultural activities which the Christian community can not remain extraneous to.

28. A fruitful point of reference for educational values is certainly constituted by the diocesan Commission for sacred art or by other Church organisms which take care of this area with a pastoral aim in mind.

The exchange of individuals, information, and initiatives between these organisms and the seminary and houses of studies is normally one of the most suitable channels for integrating the education of future priests in view of their pastoral care for the arts, the cultural goods of the community, and a concrete preparation for work in this field.

We are sure that Your Excellency, sensitive to all the aspects of pastoral life, will accept the concerns and the suggestions contained in this letter while sharing the solicitude of our Holy Father John Paul II and our own that future priests might be able to confront even those responsibilities associated with the delicate subject of the artistic heritage and the historic documents assigned to their care and promotion.

We hope that Your Excellency will be able to transmit the text of this letter along with your own suggestions and comments, to the responsible Educators and Faculty members of Your Seminary, so that they might have a chance to reflect on the fundamental issues which have motivated it. We hope that they can then design, along with concrete operative lines, the program of institutional studies of their students both with regard to the courses of the six year theological and philosophical training, and the global project of formation, according to the suggestions we have taken the liberty to underline here.

In addition, we would be delighted if during one of the meetings of your clergy, Your Excellency could inform them of the growing effort we ask of them all with regard to our responsibility toward the artistic and historic heritage of the Church from the start of their formation. We thank you Your Excellency for Your attention and concern, and we would be truly grateful for any information concerning the realization of these suggestions in Your Diocese which might enable us to avail ourselves of these experiences as an aid to other Churches.

We take this opportunity to express our deep regards and esteem.

Sincerely Yours in Jesus Christ,




1) John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, June 28 1988, art. 103.

2) Cf. for example: Sacrosanctum Concilium 129; Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities, Regarding the course of archive science in the major seminaries, May 27, 1963.
Letter to Card. Gasparri, Regarding the conservation custody and the use of archives and ecclesiastical libraries
April 15 1923.

3) Cf. Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education Ratio fundamentalis. January 6 1970 N. 80. (Ratio fundamentalis March 19 1985 N.79.)

4) Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 53‑62; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 122‑128; Message of the Council to humanity: Message to artists, December 8, 1965.

5) Sacrosanctum Concilium, 129.

6) Cf. Congregation for the Clergy Circular letter to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences on the care of the artistic and historical patrimony of the Church, April 21 1971.

7) Just to mention some documents issued in our times besides the one already mentioned in the preceding footnote we recall:

Secretary of State: Circular for the institution of Committees for the monuments under the care of the clergy December 10 1902; Circular for the conservation of archives and libraries April 15 1923, Circular to the Ordinaries of Italy September 1 1924.

- S. Congregation of the Council, Dispositions regarding objects of history and sacred art, May 24,1939.

8) Cf. John Paul II, Post‑Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores dabo vobis, art. 55.

9) Ratio Rundamentalis, 80, which refers to Optatam totius, 17. And again: "Do not easily introduce new subjects, but rather insert the new issues at the right place in those subjects already in existence”; Ratio Fundamentalis, 90.

10) John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores dabo vobis, 62; ref. Congregation for Catholic Education, Circular letter on some of the most urgent aspects of spiritual formation in the seminaries, January 6, 1980, part III.

11) Cf. on this matter, among the contemporary theologians, the theory developed by H. U. von Balthasar in his work “The Glory of the Lord: Theological Aesthetics”.

12) Ratio Fundamentalis, 80.83‑84.

13) Cf. for example: Italian Episcopal Conference, Regulation for theological studies in the major seminaries, p. 49. 74‑76; Spanish Episcopal Conference, La formacion para el ministerio presbiteral, 1986, p.129; Mexican Episcopal Conference, Ordinamento basico de los estudios para la formacion sacerdotal en Mexico, 1988, p. 177; German Episcopal Conference, Rahmenordnung für Priesterbildung, 1978, p. 61; etc.

14) Given the great variety of local situations, this Commission prefers not to elaborate directly an organic program rega1ding the artistic, juridical, pastoral, organizational aspects of the subject master as a whole concerning the relationship between Priests and the Artistic and Historic cultural goods of the Church in the conviction that such complete and efficient programs can be elaborated locally according to the indications set forth in this circular letter.

15) We point out in particular the Advanced Studies program in the Cultural Heritage of the Church at the Pontifical Gregorian University instituted in 1991.