Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pope Benedict and the World of Art

Sistine Chapel

Pope Benedict XVI met with more than 250 artists today at the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The gathering of hundreds of painters, sculptors, writers, actors, and musicians, held beneath the vaulted ceiling of the chapel painted by Michelangelo, received inspiration from the Pope in his effort to “renew the Church's friendship with the world of art."

My cousin, Sylvia, in Vienna, Austria emailed me today to let me know of the event as it was being broadcast from the Sistine Chapel on her Italian television station. Sylvia wrote this:

“I just tuned into my Italian channel Rai Uno and there is the Pope in the Sistine chapel speaking to artists from all over the world. He is speaking in Italian so I looked it up and found he wants a closer relationship with all artists with the church or religion. He told them, we need you. It has been 45 years since the Vatican or the Pope has met with artists.

The cameras are frequently flashing on the art in the Sistine chapel, on the ceiling, on specific frescos.

The Pope has a white robe on and a huge gold cross on his chest.

The commentator just said il Pappa is saluting certain artists present at the meeting.

Now they are showing the outside of the chapel in the square. The sun is shining and it looks like a good day.

I see in the audience there are many men and a few women.

Now, he is giving his blessing. Patri et filitu et Santus. Father Son and Holy Spirit.

Now, they are inside the Sistine chapel again. The frescos look so bright and fresh. It is amazing. There must be artists touching them up to keep them looking this bright.”

Saturday's event marked both the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's 'Letter to Artists' in 1999 in which he spoke of the Church's "need for art," and the 45th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's original meeting with artists in 1964. The invitation to today’s meeting went out to 500 artists regardless of religious, political or stylistic allegiances.

In recent years the Vatican has seemed to pull away from the art community and has had some controversy with artists including Dan Brown’s best-selling book (and resulting movie), The Da Vinci Code. In hopes for reconciliation with the artistic community, the Vatican's new culture commissar, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi seems to be driving the efforts for the Church to again support the arts.

According to a quote in the New York Times: “Benedict made ‘a cordial, friendly and impassioned appeal’ to the artists, calling on them to be ‘fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty.’”

According to the Catholic News Agency:

“In a moving address he [Pope Benedict] challenged the artists, as ‘custodians of beauty,’ to be ‘heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity.’”

The Pontiff explained this phenomenon, "thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement."

“He asked them to ‘be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty!’

“The Holy Father expounded on the need for beauty in the world as a source of inspiration, happiness and unity.

“’Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration,’ he said.”

“Encouraging those who filled the Sistine Chapel to seek out opportunities to share this beauty with others, he advised them not to be afraid ‘to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty!’”

“He added that they must not view this as a weakness, explaining that faith ‘takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them.’”

I did notice Sylvia’s comment that there were more men than women. Hmmm....

P.S. Thank you Syl....

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