16 January 1984

Dear Brothers in the episcopate, Dear Friends,

I extend a most hearty welcome to all of you, and I am happy to meet you during your annual reunion in Rome for a few special moments of reflection and orientation with the Pope. In you I greet with respect persons of culture throughout the world. You know the vital importance which I attach to the development of our contemporary cultures and to their profitable encounter with the saving Word of Christ the Liberator, source of grace and of cultures also.

1.      During your working sessions, you are analysing the activities of the Pontifical Council for Culture, so as to plan its future action with a Christian outlook on cultures at the end of the twentieth century.

I hope that this Council, the most recent addition to the Roman Curia, will gradually exercise its own role, and I thank you for all that you have done since its foundation in May 1982. I thank especially Cardinal Garrone, President of the Committee of Presidency, Cardinal Sales, Archbishop Paul Poupard, President of the Executive Committee, Archbishop Antonio Javierre Ortas, Counsellor, Father Carrier, Secretary, and their collaborators, who are all working hard at the primary tasks of exploration and planning, and the distinguished members of the International Council whose competent help is and will be very valuable.

Already the Holy See and the Church, through the ecclesiastical universities and academies, specialized commissions, libraries and archives, have always made a contribution of the first order to the world in terms of education, teaching and research in the sacred arts and sciences. Various sections of the Curia share in this work, and it is certainly desirable that their involvement grow in response to the needs of our contemporary world and especially that it be more unified and better known. Your Council has an original part to play in this activity and cooperation.

To form strong links with the world of culture

2.      Your role is especially to form strong links with the world of culture, in the Church as well as outside of ecclesial institutions, with bishops, religious and lay people involved in this field or representing official or private cultural associations, academic people, researchers and artists, all those who are interested in the thorough study of the cultural problems of our day. In conjunction with the local Churches, you see to it that these qualified representatives make known to the Church the results of their experiences, research and productions for the benefit of culture, things which the Church cannot ignore in its pastoral dialogue and which are a source of human enrichment, and that they receive for this the esteem of Christians.

3.    One naturally thinks of international organizations such as UNESCO and the Council of Europe whose specific activities are dedicated to the service of culture and education. Your Council can contribute, as It has already done, to strengthening suitable co-operation with these organizations which are already in contact with the Holy See.

You are also in a good position to participate, along with other representatives of the Holy See and of the Church, in important congresses which deal with cultural problems and human sciences. In such fields, the presence of the Church, to the extent that it is wanted, is particularly significant and a source of great growth for the world and for itself, and it is important that it direct all of its attention to this.

4.    The usual work of the Council is also to study in depth major cultural questions where' the faith is challenged and the Church especially involved. This is a valuable service to the Pope, to the Holy See and to the Church. The collection “Cultures and Dialogue”, whose first and interesting volume on the case of Galileo is already known, can also make a useful contribution, as well as various projects which you are planning for dialogue between cultures and the Gospel.

To study in depth

5.    In carrying out your projects, it is good, as you have the care to do, that you should call an the Episcopal Conferences so as to learn from them about initiatives which put into practice, in their areas, the objectives of the Second Vatican Council and especially of the Constitution Gaudium et Spes on culture. A better understanding of how the local Churches come to grips with the evolution of mentalities and cultures in their countries will help to direct better their evangelizing action. Interesting pastoral experiments in this line have been tried since the Council, allowing local Churches to deal in the light of the Gospel with complex problems produced by the rise of new cultures, the challenge of inculturation, new trends of thought, the often violent clash of cultures, and the loyal search for dialogue between them and the Church.

Some episcopates have already created a distinct commission for culture. Some dioceses have named an individual, sometimes an auxiliary bishop, responsible for the new problems arising from modern pastoral applications in this line. As you know, this is the solution I chose myself for the Diocese of Rome.

It will be very good to make known the results which these initiatives have produced, thus giving rise to useful exchanges of information and healthy competition.

Education and dialogue

6.      Quite rightly also, you seek to collaborate with international Catholic organizations, many of which are especially interested in cultural problems and have expressed the desire to co-operate with you. These organizations are at the forefront of the activity carried out by Catholics in the promotion of culture, education and intercultural dialogue. That is why I am happy that your Council pays such attention to this important sector, working with the Pontifical Council for the Laity whose duty it is, in general, to follow the apostolate of international Catholic organizations.

7.    On the other hand, many religious men and women do important work in this realm of culture. A number of religious institutes devoted to education and cultural progress, and to the understanding and evangelizing of cultures, have expressed their desire to participate actively in the work of the Pontifical Council for Culture, so as to seek together, in a spirit of fraternal co-operation, the best ways to promote the objectives of the Second Vatican Council in this vast field. In connection with the Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes, your Council will be able to help religious men and women in the specific work of evangelization which is theirs for the cultural advancement of the human person.

A culture of peace

8.    Through these few words, one can easily appreciate the importance and urgency of the mission entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Culture, a mission which finds its place and specific aspect in that of the organisms of the Holy See and in that of the entire Church, responsible for bringing the Good News to men quite marked by cultural progress but also by its limitations. More than ever, in fact, man is seriously threatened by anti-culture which reveals itself, among other ways, in growing violence, murderous confrontations, exploitation of instincts and selfish interests. In working for the progress of culture, the Church is always trying to see to it that collective wisdom triumphs over divisive interests. We must allow our generations to build a culture of peace. May our contemporaries rediscover a liking and esteem for culture, true victory of reason, brotherly understanding and sacred respect for man who is capable of love, creativity, contemplation, solidarity, transcendence!

In this Jubilee Year of the Redemption which has already given me the occasion to receive in pious pilgrimage many men and women of culture, I implore the blessing of the Lord on your difficult and fascinating task. May the message of reconciliation, liberation and love rising from the living spring of the Gospel purify and enlighten the cultures of our contemporaries in search of hope!