Where we come from
In the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council expressed the need for the Church to continually place herself before the needs of the cultures of the world. The Church, faithful to its own traditions, is aware of the universality of its mission and the need for a new humanism, so enters into communion with the different forms of culture in a dialogue that can enrich the Church as much as cultures (cf. Nos. 54-58).
Pope Paul VI on 9 April 1965 created the “Secretariat for Non-believers” (which in 1988 became the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-believers), as a focal point for the dialogue with people of goodwill who profess no specific religion. Then John Paul II founded the Pontifical Council of Culture on 20 May 1982 with the aim of establishing dialogue between the Church and the cultures of our time, so that they could open themselves up to the Christian faith, which is a creator of culture as well as a source of science, letters and the arts. On 25 March 1993 John Paul II with the Motu Proprio Inde a Pontificatus united the Pontifical Council for Culture to the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-believers to establish a single organism. On 30 July 2012 Pope Benedict XVI with the Motu Proprio Pulchritudinis Fidei united to the Council the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Goods of the Church. On 5 June 2022, with the apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, Pope Francis incorporated the Council into the Dicastery for Culture and Education.
Today, that commitment to dialogue in the many spheres of human interest and activity continues: in the sciences and humanities, economics and sports, digital culture and artificial intelligence, cultural heritage and the Courtyard of the Gentiles, and in the arts and music.
Who we are and what we do
There is a Secretariat based in Rome consisting of a small permanent team.
Members of the dicastery (cardinals, bishops and leading cultural figures) attend the Plenary, represent the dicastery on important occasions and oversee other activies, being appointed by the Holy Father for five-year terms.
The dicastery also relies on Consultors for the study of particularly important questions. These, too, are appointed by the Holy Father for five-year terms and they come from all over the world, specialists in the field of culture or in dialogue with non-believers. They assist with their research and the information and opinions they provide.
The Plenary Assembly occurs at least once every three years. Its purpose is to pool experiences and reflections on the variety of cultural situations in contemporary societies.
The other 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.
2. Conferences, 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. We are 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. We publish the journal Culture e Fede (Cultures and Faith), which has articles and new items in English, French, Italian and Spanish. There is, in addition, a newsletter and books and booklets on the many aspects of the encounter between the Gospel and cultures, and on intercultural dialogue. We publish the proceedings of the more important conferences and maintain a presence on the world wide web and in the press to stimulate the dialogue between Church and culture.
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.