A Papal Statement: The Beauty Of Faith Is Not An Obstacle To Artistic Creation

Wishing all Americans a Happy Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and all friends and followers of this blog a blessed and creative day. The statement below was released by Pope Benedict 16th this morning. It contains some very poignant and relevant points for meditation and implementation. As artists we have a wonderful responsibility to be “Guardians of Beauty in the World”  – especially the beauty of faith. Enjoy!
          “Vatican City, 22 November 2012 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon in the Aula Magna of the Palazzo San Pio X, the Pontifical Academies held their seventeenth public session on the theme “Pulchritudinis fidei testis: the artist, like the Church, is a witness to the beauty of faith”. The session was opened by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B read out a message from Benedict XVI to the participants.

In the text the Pope confirms “the desire of the Church to rediscover the joy of common reflection and concerted action, with the aim of restoring the theme of beauty as the focus of attention within ecclesial communities, civil society and the world of culture”.

Beauty, continues the Pope, “should be confirmed and expressed in all forms of art, without however detracting from the experience of faith; rather it should freely and openly confront faith in order to draw inspiration and to find subject matter. The beauty of faith, indeed, is never an obstacle to the creation of artistic beauty, as it constitutes in a sense its vital lymph and its ultimate horizon.

Indeed, true artists, defined in the Vatican Council II Message to Artists as ‘guardians of beauty in the world’, by virtue of their special aesthetic sensibility and intuition, are capable of grasping and assimilating the true beauty of faith more deeply than others, and thus expressing and communicating it in their own language.

“In this respect, we can therefore consider the artist as an important witness to the beauty of faith. He/She is able to participate, through his/her own specific and original contribution, to the vocation and mission of the Church, especially when, through various forms of artistic expression, they wish to or are requested to create works of art directly linked to faith and worship, or to the liturgical activity of the Church”.

In the Year of Faith, the Pope invites all Christian artists and all those who engage in dialogue with faith to ensure that their artistic development becomes a “complete journey involving all dimensions of human existence, in order to witness more effectively the beauty of faith in Jesus Christ, the image of the glory of God Who illuminates the history of humanity”.

The session concluded with the awarding of the pontifical academies annual prize, dedicated this year to the arts and with special emphasis on the fields of painting and sculpture. The prizewinners were the Polish sculptor Anna Gulak and the Spanish painter David Ribes Lopez, while the pontifical medal was presented to the Italian sculptor Jacopo Cardillo.”

The images below: the first is part of the monumental sculpture of Beato John Paul II by the Polish sculptor Anna Gulak. The second is by the Spanish painter David Ribes Lopez and I believe is part of a series that he painted entiled Art is Revelation completed in 2007. The third image is a series of marble sculptures that were created by the Italian sculptor Jacopo Cardillo. A sincere thanks to their various websites for providing these images.

Copyright © 2012 Deacon Paul O. Iacono All Rights Reserved

10 thoughts on “A Papal Statement: The Beauty Of Faith Is Not An Obstacle To Artistic Creation

    1. Thanks; Pope Benedict 16th and Beato John Paul 2 have both been very supportive of reinvigorating the magnificent traditions of Western sacred art while simultaneously supporting the renewal of interest in the Eastern Rites’ traditions of sacred iconography. It is my hope that our mutual interest (Western and Eastern Rites) in the sacred arts will be a conduit
      for spiritual unity.


  1. Another wonderful post. I couldn’t agree more how important the visual image is to a fuller expression of faith. The emphasis on ‘beauty’ that the Church currently professes is encouraging but the examples that they have chosen to recognize is disappointing. The quality is actually quite low.


    1. Yes, I find it interesting, too, as to the selections that are sometimes made. I am certainly still very much a student,
      so I am continually learning; however, it is surprising to me that the appropriate Church committee does not select people such as yourself – true experts in the field – to assist them in making selections. The appreciation of art, even sacred art, is very subjective. Maybe we have to bang the drum more to make people aware that this type of expertise does exist; or maybe, it comes down to the fact that the people in charge really like what the selections say to them. My concern is that I believe that art, especially at this stage of the Church’s history, must have an evangelization component to it. It must touch the heart, in order to assist the individual in returning to the Church, to be nourished by her Sacramental Grace. Sacred art needs to feed us, and challenge our spirit (actually, I believe that is true of secular art, too). Thanks for reading my thoughts and commenting on them. Best wishes for a prayerful Advent and joyous Christmas season.


  2. I would agree with you that we have to continue to call to attention what really matters in the realm of the visual arts. The ‘Beautiful’ as the ‘Spirit’ have been separated and sidelined in contemporary culture. The people in charge do not have strong convictions about the art that glorifies our Lord. That is why your blog and others like the ‘Way of Beauty’ are so important. Another positive step is the liturgical arts masters degree sponsored by the Vatican in Rome.

    Let’s be honest. If we wanted to rate the most important works of western civilization in the last 2000 years the top 10(at the very least) would be Catholic pieces. The image of Michelangelo’s God creating Adam from the Sistine ceiling would be considered number one for all groups of our society, believing and non believers. Going down the list we would find Giotto, Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio, Bernini, Rubens, Velasquez, etc. (One exception would be Rembrandt.)

    Great artists create images that become imprinted upon our psyche. And that is a great responsibility, aesthetically and morally. The above pieces are at best forgettable and mediocre, if not meaningless.

    I have ran into so many obstacles(and outright hostility to my work) with the hierarchy of the Italian Catholic Church that I have pretty much given up on creating Sacred Art. In the end I have a family that I have to support. America is the future for Catholic art. Please keep up the wonderful job that you have been doing.

    All the best wishes and God Bless.


  3. Matthew, my friend, you must not give up on creating sacred art.
    You are a master artist. Your work not only has a spiritual depth that is rarely seen today, but it also is executed with precision and a great sense of aesthetic and spiritual truth.
    The fact that those in certain circles cannot see or appreciate it, speaks more of their insensitivity, hardness of heart, and their lack of artistic vision for the benefit of the Church.
    The Catholic Church is in dire need of artists who are able to reawaken the sense of the holy and sacred in the minds and hearts of the faithful.
    You have been given a great gift – do not allow “the walking blind” to dissuade you from sharing it with us. Yes, you have to take care of your family, but please try to remain open to creating sacred art in the future.
    Continued success, and may the blessings of Christ be on you and your family.


  4. Thank you very much Paul for your kind words and support. They mean a lot to me. Unfortunately, I am an artist by profession and it provides my livelihood. It is less a conscience choice than a mere fact of survival that I have ceased to create Sacred Art. Of all the works that I have made, only a couple have found interested parties. My painting of Christ Carrying the Cross is currently on show with 4 other of my works at Saint Vincent College. It even won 2nd place (The 1st place choice was a bit disappointing to say the least) but I doubt it will find a proper home. The shipping of the paintings alone is a great financial burden.
    I will never give up on Sacred art. But I will have to bide my time for the right opportunity to begin again.


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