.- On November 22, Pope Benedict XVI attracted the eyes of the world to the Sistine Chapel where he welcomed a group of 250 international artists and urged them to renew an old friendship in the "quest for beauty." CNA interviewed Abbot Michael John Zielinski, Vice President of the Pontifical Council for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and Sacred Archeology, for further insight into the meaning of this 'quest' and its significance in this Papacy.
Commenting on the “via pulchritudinis,” beauty as a way to God, and the Holy Father's recent emphasis on it, the Benedictine abbot replied, "This is nothing new. Take a look at Pope Benedict XVI's liturgy. The Pope's liturgy is not a return to tradition, it's the way to tradition. It is clearly the expression of... continuity. He's bringing out, as it were, making manifest the way of beauty to God."
Zielinski then mused on the Pope's awareness, "Have you seen him around people? He listens very carefully. He observes.” The abbot recalled that during the Pope's audiences, “he has these penetrating eyes. He doesn't observe the mass (of people), he observes the individuals... In his spiritual life, he is also very observant. He understands the needs of the Church."
"I think we'll truly understand this Pontificate in the future because he's taking us to our principles," opined the abbot. "In a world where there's inflation of words and images, his life of silence, prayer and study is truly a prophetic act today."
Abbot Michael John alluded to a quote from Thomas Merton, the 20th Century Catholic writer, who once said, "prayer is losing time for God."
"The Pope believes that 'losing' that time is important... You are prepared for the next life in that time."
You might notice also, said the Benedictine, that the Pope's "physical self is not over the top, you never see him moving about (exaggeratedly)..., whereas his thought is extensive, it has infinite horizons."
"His Pontificate is so different from the last one and yet so complementary."
The abbot remarked that there is a reform going on in the Church, "the reform of Benedict XVI."
Abbot Michael John said we will soon begin to see the fruits of the Pope's “reform.” "He's preparing the younger generations. He's offering them a vision, a vision of life, the world and the church and what it means to be a Christian today. He's preparing us, opening the eyes of our hearts.”
“The vision," Zielinski added, "is a hidden sense, a hidden desire, that of energy and force, and from this vision will come forth new life, ... new forms, new expressions, new representations."
"In Australia at World Youth Day, the young boys and girls returned home with eyes full of vision, and now," he said, "the world is waiting to see what that vision is going to produce; they'll write books, write music, build their houses, churches and cities."
"Hopefully, it will be a life of peace and justice, ... a life that can give witness to the Giver of life."