Christian Humanism Addresses All Cultures

VATICAN CITY—Putting God into the picture of modern culture will answer people's deepest questions and provide them with a greater measure of protection, Pope John Paul II said in a Nov. 19 message to the plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“Many of our contemporaries, especially young people, experience great difficulties when they realize that they are submerged and disoriented by the multiplicity of ideas prevailing on man, life and death, the world and their meaning,” the Pope wrote.

At the same time, John Paul II explained, too often “the ideas on man that modern society transmits have become real systems of thought that tend to distance themselves from truth and to exclude God, believing that by so doing, they are affirming the primacy of man, in the name of an alleged liberty and its full and free development.

These ideologies deprive man of the constitutive dimension of a person created in the image and likeness of God.”

According to the Pope, “this profound mutilation becomes a genuine threat to man, because it leads to thinking of man without any relation to transcendence.”

In the dialogue with culture, the Church has the essential task of “guiding our contemporaries in the discovery of a healthy anthropology that will lead them to know Christ, true God and true man.”

Christian humanism does not belong to any specific culture, the Pope explained, but is meant to penetrate all cultures. “In face of the wealth of salvation brought by Christ, the barriers that separate different cultures are demolished. The ‘folly’ of the cross, of which St. Paul speaks, is the power of a wisdom that overcomes all cultural limits.”

The global, multicultural society, can generate skepticism and religious indifference, the Pope warned.

“It is a challenge that must be addressed with intelligence and courage. The Church is not afraid of legitimate diversity, which highlights the rich treasures of the human soul. What's more, she counts on this diversity to inculturate the Gospel message.”

With just a few weeks left before the beginning of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Pope said it is “an exceptional time of grace — the mission to announce Christ becomes ever more urgent.”

The Church has an obligation to help people discover the true meaning of life by helping them discover “the greatness and beauty of Christ, the Word of God,” the Pope said.

“And it is certain that attracted to beauty, to esthetics, our contemporaries will be led to ethics, that is to say, to leading a beautiful and dignified life.”