Lighting of the Nativity scene in Saint Peter’s Square  (Vatican Media)

By Vatican News staff reporter

Dec 14 2020

Artists have a lofty and demanding calling, especially at a time when the pandemic has made shadows grow deeper, Pope Francis said on Saturday morning as he met with artists taking part in this year’s Christmas concert. The beauty of art, he told them, can inspire hope, harmony, and peace.

In this critical historical moment, in which humanity is rediscovering our dependence on one another due to the pandemic, art has a crucial role to play, Pope Francis said on Saturday.

Speaking with artists who will be performing at this year’s Christmas concert, the Holy Father shared “a few thoughts on art and its role at this critical moment in history.”

From art to empathy

Artistic creation, the “perception and contemplation of beauty,” can be understood “in terms of three movements,” the Pope said: the wonder and amazement produced in the senses; the deeper appreciation that “touches the depths of our heart and soul” awaking memories, images and emotions; and “the sense of hope that can light up our world” which is generated by art.

These “outer and inner movements merge and in turn affect our way of relating to those all around us,” the Pope said. “They generate empathy, the ability to understand others, with whom we have so much in common.  We sense a bond with them, a bond no longer vague, but real and shared.”

Harmony, beauty, goodness

“This three-fold movement of wonder, personal discovery, and sharing produces a feeling of peace,” said Pope Francis, which “frees us from the desire to dominate others, makes us sensitive to their difficulties, and prompts us to live in harmony with all.” This harmony, he added, is “deeply associated with beauty and goodness.”

Generating light in a time of pandemic

The bond between harmony, beauty, and goodness, can be seen even in the book of Genesis, where, the Pope explains, the adjective “good” can be broadly translated as “harmonious.” From the beauty of Creation, we can also understand, “in the face of that grandeur, our own place in the world,” the Pope said.

Artists understand this, he continued. They are the ones who, “as St John Paul II wrote, ‘perceive in themselves a kind of divine spark’” and feel called to put it at the service of humanity; the ones who, in the words of St Paul VI, are “lovers of beauty,” whom the world needs so as not to sink into despair.

Even “amid the anxiety provoked by the pandemic,” Pope Francis told artists, “your creativity can be a source of light.” He continued, “The crisis has made even denser the ‘dark clouds over a closed world,’ and this might seem to obscure the light of the divine, the eternal.  Let us not yield to that illusion, but seek the light of Christmas, which dispels the darkness of sorrow and pain.”

Called to transmit truth and beauty

At the close of his address, the Holy Father appealed to artists as “guardians of beauty in our world,” whose “lofty and demanding calling” is to transmit truth and beauty with “pure and dispassionate hands”:

For these instil joy in human hearts and are, in fact, ‘a precious fruit that endures through time, unites generations and makes them share in a sense of wonder.’ Today, as always, that beauty appears to us in the lowliness of the Christmas crèche. Today, as always, we celebrate that beauty with hearts full of hope. – Vatican News