Pope John Paul II underlined the prominent role the Roman Catholic Church has played, and continues to play, in the development of culture throughout human history.
The Pope spoke on the Church’s contribution to culture and the importance of preserving and promoting the development of culture in an address to the ambassadors of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) May 8.
The pontiff stated that culture provides people with the experience of a “truly human life.”
“The world's artistic heritage is a treasure of human creativity; it offers an eloquent testimony of the intelligence of humanity, which participates in the work of the divine Creator,” he said.
He pointed out that a significant expression of culture is found in the arts and sciences, which the Church has continually encouraged and supported.
The Church has “helped to develop an incomparable heritage of music, art and literature, which represents a significant contribution to the progress of culture,” he said.
Describing the Church as a “friend of the arts and sciences,” the Pope said that it “has constantly appealed to the fine arts to assist it in celebrating the gift of life and, very especially, its sacred rites in a worthy, just and beautiful manner.”
The Pope said the Church has also encouraged the development of the sciences through its promotion of the dignity and value of human life.
He cited three institutions that were established to help encourage development in several fields of science, such as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences – which recently celebrated its 400th anniversary – the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and the Pontifical Academy for Life.
The Pope lamented that currently war, poverty, racism and the exploitation of others often threaten progress.
“These harmful influences not only weigh on our human existence but they also hinder our capacity to build a better world,” he said.
“I pray that organizations such as UNESCO will remain an essential element in the construction of a true culture based on peace, justice, and equity,” he told his audience.
The Pope gave the ambassadors a blessing and said he hoped that their visit to the Vatican would renew them in their work.