MEETING WITH CULTURAL WORLD
BY JOHN THAVIS
IN A MEETING with Portugal’s artistic and academic elite Pope Benedict XVI warned that modern society’s exaltation of the present threatens to undermine the traditionally Christian culture of Portugal.
The Pope said the Church’s role includes the defence of such cultural foundations.
“For a society formed by a Catholic majority and whose culture has been deeply marked by Christianity, the attempt to find the truth outside of Jesus Christ is a dramatic development,” he said.
The Pope made the remarks at in Lisbon to more than 1,000 representatives of Portuguese culture, including artists, filmmakers, critics, musicians, writers and academics.
Seated on a throne in the centre of a stage at the Belem Cultural Centre the Pope heard a brief musical performance and then listened as 101-yearold Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal’s best-known film director, gave a welcoming talk.
Mr Oliveira spoke of the “terrible doubts and disbelief” that have been raised in the modern age against the “faith of the Gospel that can move mountains”. He concluded by saying that the roots of Portugal’s culture were Christian “whether we want it or not.” The Pope said Mr Oliveira’s words reflected a widespread anxiety caused by a modern culture that wants to “absolutise the present, detaching it from the cultural patrimony of the past”. This has naturally created a conflict with Portugal’s strongly Christian history, he said. This cultural conflict is actually a “crisis of truth”, the Pope said, because a culture that stops knowing the truth about itself and its own historical development ends up lacking clearly defined values and purposes.
He said the Church, in defending the truth of the Gospel and its power to shape cultures, remains open to dialogue with others, as long as the dialogue is “without ambiguity and respectful of the participants”.
The Church’s primary mission in contemporary culture, the Pope said, is to “keep alive the search for truth and, consequently, for God”, and to lead people to seek the ultimate things that give life meaning. He said the Second Vatican Council marked a turning point in the Church’s effort to have greater influence in the modern world. The Council, he said, allowed the Church to welcome the best of modern culture while rejecting its “errors and blind alleys”.