15 January 1988

Your Eminences, Dear Friends

        1. It is a pleasure to receive you here on the occasion of the yearly meeting of the Pontifical Council for Culture. After an initial five-year period rich in achievements and promise, a new stage is beginning for your young Council and I am pleased to greet among you your newly-nominated members. North America and Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe bear witness in your persons to the vitality and the diversity of cultures as well as to the presence of the Church in the vast domains where human activity unfolds. The power of the Gospel is at work among the greatest projects of civilization: philosophy and theology, literature and history, science and art, architecture and painting, poetry and singing, law, schools and universities. Dear friends, it is up to you both to be in the Church the active witnesses of today's manifestations of culture and to be visible and effective representatives of the Pontifical Council for Culture throughout the world.

The mission of the Laity in Culture Change

        2. The recent Synod for Bishops, dedicated to the vocation and the mission of the laity in the Church and in the world, has emphasized twenty years after the Second Vatican Council the urgency of forming the laity in order to make the gospel more present in the living fibre of cultures, in the surroundings which will form tomorrow's mentalities and inspire its actions: the family, school, university and means of social communications. Some of you have made a valuable contribution in emphasizing the importance of the work to be accomplished in opening intellectual and university circles to gospel values.

The work of the Synod has made us more aware that the challenge of all the baptized is to bear witness to their faith with intelligence and courage in such a way as to bring salvation and hope through the cultures of our time. I invite you anew to make our contemporaries better understand what it means to evangelize the world of culture in a concrete and vital manner. The task is complex and difficult, but my encouragement, support and prayer accompany you in this mission to which I attach a primary importance.

3. In order that the gospel may make fruitful the cultures of the world which are in the process of transformation, a renewed impulse must come from all the components of the Church, from the offices of the Holy See as well as from the episcopal conferences, from international Catholic organizations as well as from religious communities and secular institutes, from the laity engaged in the rich diversity of movements of the apostolate as well as in the heart of the institutions of secular society.

Your executive president has informed me of the projected meetings prepared long in advance which allow you gradually to enter into contact with the living realities of the Church across the various continents. I am thinking of the coming African Seminar, due to the initiative of Mrs Victoria Okoye, which will allow you to recognize, since Onitsha, the remarkable engagement on the part of African women for passing on faith and culture, for incarnating the values of the gospel in the coming generation which will be the Africa of the next millennium.

Within the framework of the Holy See's activity in international institutions, beginning with UNESCO and the Council of Europe, you have a specific contribution to make according to your own abilities in order to render more influential the presence of Christians and their organizations in the major meetings where the problems of education, science, communication and culture are debated. I strongly encourage your participation in the initiatives taken by the Roman Congregations concerned with carrying out these objectives which respond to the aspirations of our age, which is so sensitive to the realization of a united and fraternal culture.

The Church and University Culture

4. At the end of the first five-year period, I have the pleasure of recognizing all those who have given of themselves unstintingly in order to create the Pontifical Council for Culture and to make it present, alive and active throughout the world. Dear Cardinal Garrone and members of the presidential committee, Cardinal Poupard and the executive committee, the international council, you have, all of you, worked without ceasing in order to realize the mandate which I entrusted to you on 20 May, 1982, as I instituted your Council. As witnessed by your Bulletin and your various publications, this new department of the Holy See has known how, in its own way, to set up in Rome itself and throughout the world an active network of correspondents and to set in motion a far-reaching action which is beginning to bear fruit. I am particularly pleased to emphasize the utility of your collaboration with the other organizations of the Holy See, with the episcopal conferences, international Catholic organizations and conferences of religious. Dear friends, with your new team, continue this fruitful co-operation in close union with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, as I have already emphasized on many occasions.

I am grateful also for your collaboration with the International Theological Commission. The problems regarding faith and inculturation, which you have begun to explore together, certainly merit deeper study in order to light the way for a proper pastoral action with regard to culture.

5. The project “The Church and University Culture”, carried on jointly with the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for the Laity, can also become an efficient means of the Church's collaboration for the Christian advancement of a civilization of love and truth on the eve of the new millennium. The world of the university constitutes for the Church a privileged field for her work of evangelization and her presence in the cultural sphere. What human and religious values will characterize the university world of tomorrow? Who does not see the importance of these questions for the intellectual and moral health of the new generations? There is here a very complex problem which requires active co-operation on the part of all in the Church. I am also pleased by the study and the joint reflections which the Pontifical Council for Culture and the two above-mentioned Congregations have set up in collaboration with episcopal conferences, organizations of laity and institutions of religious in order that the Church's action in the university world may truly respond to the demands of our age.

6. In this Marian Year, may Our Lady be your guiding star and your model! In giving us her Son, Jesus, she has given us everything. In her person, human values have been assumed and transfigured in a joint mystery of interiority and transcendence. After her example, may your culture be the reflection of that which you have received and the crucible of that which you offer to the Church and to the world, namely, the witness that the kingdom announced by the gospel is lived out in your own culture!

With my best wishes for you and your families, I assure you of my prayer for the fruitfulness of your work upon which I invoke the abundance of divine grace as I give you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.