The Pope Receives a Creative Audience at the Sistine Chapel

Pope Benedict, Sistine Chapel, Vatican

VATICAN CITY — The magnificent Renaissance frescoes of the great Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, and Botticelli provided the backdrop for a pontifical address to art world heavyweights on Saturday. Pope Benedict received roughly 250 creatives, including painters, sculptors, architects, musicians, poets and film directors, at the Sistine Chapel (not your typical conference room/banquet hall), where he spoke to the crowd about bridging the gap between the art world and religion.

Though the Vatican invited roughly 500 artistic leaders of varying religious, political and stylistic allegiances, only about half accepted the invitation. Opera star Andrea Bocelli, film director F. Murray Abraham and architect Zaha Hadid (whose acclaimed MAXXI museum of contemporary art opened in Rome last weekend) were among those in the audience.

The Pope began his address by explaining, "At this gathering I wish to express and renew the Church’s friendship with the world of art." He said that in the present time of social and economic hardship, when all hope seems to be lost, it is beauty which can restore the human spirit.

"[...]the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful," Pope Benedict said. "Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God."

Pope Benedict ended by appealing to his audience, whom he called "the custodians of beauty," asking them to use their talent "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 told them to be grateful for their gifts, and said, "Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity!"

The Vatican is expected to have its own pavilion at the next Venice Biennale art exhibition in 2011, perhaps a sign that the establishment is finally willing to embrace the world of modern art.
Read More - Full Text of the Pope’s Address
[Photo: Pope Benedict XVI greets more than 250 leading figures from the world of arts in the Sistine Chapel on Saturday. Courtesy Osservatore Romano/Associated Press]


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