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Pope to artists: Beauty is work of the Holy Spirit

In an address to members of an Italian cinema organisation, Pope Francis reflects on the importance of beauty, which, he said, is often “left to one side” in theological discussion.

By Joseph Tulloch

Pope Francis on Monday welcomed to the Vatican members of the Ente dello Spettacolo Foundation, a Catholic organisation which promotes cinema in Italy.

Setting aside his prepared remarks, the Holy Father spoke off-the-cuff to participants about the significance of beauty, and its relationship with harmony, which he identified as “the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Neglecting beauty

The Pope began by expressing his appreciation for the work of those in the film industry, which he called “the work of beauty.”

Despite its importance, the Pope said, beauty is not always given sufficient attention within the Church. “It’s always been left to one side, or at least in the corner”, he explained. “Theology books talk a lot about the verum, truth; they speak a lot about bonum [the good], but not so much about beauty.”

“It almost seems like discussing beauty isn’t relevant to theological and pastoral reflection,” he said, before adding, in a reference to a famous line from Dostoyesky, that it is “beauty that will save us.”

Beauty as harmony

Beauty, the Pope continued, “is harmony, the work of the Holy Spirit.”

“When we see the work of the Holy Spirit, which is harmonising differences,” he said, “then we understand what beauty is. Beauty is the work of the Holy Spirit that harmonises everything – contraries, opposites, everything.”

He gave the example of the morning of Pentecost: “There’s that big fuss, everyone’s talking, nobody knows what’s going on, a great disorder … It’s the Spirit that harmonises all of this.”

Cinema, the Pope concluded, aims at harmony, and the greatest works of cinema are those which manage to convey “harmony, both in joy and in pain, human harmony.”

The importance of cinema

Pope Francis ended his address by thanking those present, and reflecting on the importance of the film industry.

“Thank you for your work,” he said. “It’s evangelical work. Poetic work too, because cinema is poetry; giving life is poetic. I thank you for your journey: keep going, keep going, in the footsteps of the greats. You Italians have a glorious history of this. Keep going.”

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