Artists laud Pope's step toward "their world"


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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2009 ( Benedict XVI's Saturday audience with some 250 internationally renowned artists drew various reactions from the participants, most of them expressing appreciation for the Pope's steps toward dialogue.

In general, all agreed that this audience was a first step, as Polish film director and producer Krzysztof Zanussi acknowledged.

"This is our expectation: a bit more action on the part of the Church to take a step toward the world of entertainment, toward artists," said Zanussi.

The film director affirmed that the "very beautiful" words of the Holy Father introduced "more dialogue, more openness, more knowledge," to the world of art and the Church. He added that the Pontiff is at the same time realistic, as "today's art is in decadence because there is no limit."

Zanussi said, "I don't think the Church will limit liberty, but inspirations are necessary, as art, including sacred art, is often of very low quality, it isn't inspired in a spiritual dimension."

Mexican actor and producer Eduardo Verástegui, who is currently living in Los Angeles and is known for his role in the film "Bella," said that this meeting with the Pope was "a dream come true."

He said: "The Church has created in history summits of art, and to be in the Sistine Chapel, with the Holy Father, surrounded by all that art, accompanied by artists of all expressions, was something historic. And all this in silence, prayer and reflection.

"It is something that has greatly enriched all of us who heard him."


The reason that led the Holy Father to call this meeting is the same that inspired Pope Paul VI when he organized a similar meeting in the same setting 45 years ago: the divorce between the Church and the artistic world.

Inspired in the words of his predecessor, Benedict XVI affirmed "the Church's friendship with the world of art, a friendship that has been strengthened over time."

He invited the artists to "make a similar, shared commitment, analyzing seriously and objectively the factors that disturbed this relationship, and assuming individual responsibility, courageously and passionately, for a newer and deeper journey in mutual acquaintance and dialogue in order to arrive at an authentic 'renaissance' of art in the context of a new humanism."

Italian film director and producer Pupi Avati made this evaluation of the meeting: "I think this meeting has had a totally extraordinary result.

"And it is said by someone like me, who expected to see a series of colleagues of different artistic expressions, but more or less linked to the same confessional idea, of more or less religious practice."

Avati continued: "On the contrary, and this has been truly miraculous, we have seen colleagues, in fact, from more distanced ambits.

"Hence, they have accepted this invitation, not now for collaboration, which seems to me an excessive word, but to dialogue.

"We think it has been an extraordinary idea that goes by far beyond what was anticipated."


Similar comments were made by Zaha Hadid, world renown architect of Iraqi origin, who sat in the first row in the Sistine chapel. She said she hoped this was the beginning of a dialogue "as it is timely to address the topics posed by the Pope."

Italian writer Susanna Tamaro stressed the importance of the transcendent dimension that Benedict XVI gave to beauty, as "for those who do not have faith it is difficult to speak of hope at this time."

Israeli film director Samuel Maoz, who won an award in the last Venice International Film Festival for his film "Lebanon," said "I think the Pope has said a great 'no' to hatred and war and a great 'yes' to love and art."

The Pope was in agreement with the artists when pointing out that this meeting is the beginning, not the end.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who organized the event, explained that this meeting "must be understood as the beginning of a new dialogue, based on fraternity between faith and art."

He added, "We will try to organize another meeting, perhaps again with the Pope."

In this context, the prelate announced a project to create for the first time a Holy See pavilion in the Venice Biennial art exhibition, which will next take place in 2011.