November 21 of this year will mark the tenth anniversary of John-Paul IIâ€™s Letter to Artists. Since the discourse to artists and craftsmen was released to the creative artisans of the Catholic Church, a new pontificate with Benedict XVI has transpired. The Holy Father has invited artist from the entire world to join him at the Sistine Chapel in November to discuss the relationship the Church has with the artistic community and explore the relationship for deepening awareness.
There is really no doubt that the Catholic Church has always provided patronage and support to the arts. The fact that this artistâ€™s convocation is scheduled to take place in the Sistine Chapel, in the presence of Michelangeloâ€™s magnificent works accentuates the relationship between religion and art is deeply rooted.
Hopefully, as a supplement to John-Paulâ€™s Letter to Artists, Pope Benedict in his meeting with representatives of the art community will further develop this symbiotic union the Church continues to have with the creative spirit of the artistic community.
The relationship with the artistic community and the Church has indeed always contained a bit of tension, one that tentatively explores the natural desire of artists unite their artistic abilities with the transcendence nature of the Churchâ€™s sacraments and liturgy. The greatest cathedrals throughout Europe are examples of manâ€™s desire to express the great magnificence and transcendence of God. In the twentieth century the relationship of the Church with the visual arts has not always been a positive one. In some cases the secular influences of contemporary art, the influences of secular modernism and unconventional architectural notions has often found itâ€™s way into the Churchâ€™s art and architecture. There have been of course examples of good results and some bad results in the Churchâ€™s pursuit of artistic expression. Most importantly is the fact that the Catholic Church supports the artist not only as an inspired individual, but also as a vocational part of the Churchâ€™s ministry and life.
Benedictâ€™s meeting with artists of all faiths, from multicultural nations that span the entire world is a remarkable event that is unequalled in scope. Hopefully, in addition to meeting with these global artistâ€™s the Pope will herald in effect a new Renaissance of artistic design and figurative representations that will permit a qualitative manifestation of our human pursuit of Godâ€™s presence in nature and indeed the cosmological world. Artists of all categories present a unique perspective of their creative vision that deserves a prominent acceptance and place in Catholic art and architecture. There have been times in our own recent history that inferior examples of art, architecture and creative expressions have infused themselves in our Catholic Churches and even our sacred liturgies. The, Pontifical Summit of the Arts…offers expectations that our institutional Church will again see the incorporation of artists and their works as one of the highest vocational services that indeed glorify God and His magnificent Creation.
With that really in mind, one needs to realize as illustrated in John-Paulâ€™s Letter to Artist in 1999 that the Catholic Church does not endorse or support any particular style of artistic representation. The Church supports multicultural and global representations of artistic merit that are of the highest quality of the artistâ€™s materials and expressions. In a increasingly disposable global society, the acknowledgement of the use of highest quality materials, and the need for art of most superlative forms will be a catalyst for a new era of artistic expression that transcends secular aspects of time and space.
Benedict XVI is acutely aware of the extremes representational art has often taken in the 20th century. This meeting of artists with the Pope hopefully will provide a sacred insight to all Catholics, artists and clergy of the integral relationship sacred art and artists provide in the spiritual, cultural and intellectual life of the Catholic Church. Hopefully, the Sistine Chapel meeting between the Holy Father and the community of artists will promote harmony and understanding that will translate into the architectural designs for our new Catholic Churches as deeply felt expression of the axiom of Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi that always guides our most sacred rituals.
Regardless of the outcome of this papal convocation with artists, seemingly the Universal Church is experiencing a Renaissance of the Holy Spirit in terms of the relationship between art and the Catholic Church. The anticipation of qualitative expressions of the artistic hand as reflections of Godâ€™s glory will be the visible results.
Hugh J.McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist writing on Catholic topics and issues. He attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied both philosophy and theology. He writes frequently at http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://nothing-left-unsaid.blogspot.com . Hugh writes about his Irish Catholic upbringing and educational experiences at http://graysferrygrapevine.blogspot.com . He has contributed works to Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online, The Irish Catholic, Dublin, the British Broadcasting Company, London and the Philadelphia Bulletin, Pewsitter.com, Blogger News Network & The Catholic Business Journal.