ROME – In an off-the-books conversation with television, film, and music artists gathered at the Vatican for a private summit, Pope Francis spoke of the role that beauty and art can play in opening doors and inspiring hearts.
From Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, more than 20 celebrities met at the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV, which is the headquarters of the Vatican’s Academy of Sciences, for an ecumenical gathering organized by the Vitae Foundation that featured artists from different disciplines and various Christian traditions.
The aim of the gathering, according to the Vitae Foundation, was for participants to come to an agreement on policies and guidelines for the development of global initiatives that promote the good of all, without distinction.
Among the high-profile names on the guestlist were actors Denzel Washington and Patricia Heaton, as well as Italian singing sensation Andrea Bocelli. The list also included other recognized names, such as Jessica and David Oyelowo, Jonathan Roumie – who portrays Jesus in the movie The Chosen – Eduardo Verastegui, J. Balvin, and Marcus Mumford.
In a Sept. 1 statement, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pope arrived at the Casina Pio IV around 3 p.m. local time, and spoke to attendees about the importance of truth, goodness, and beauty.
As artists, beauty is especially important and can serve as a path of contemplation, he said, telling the artists, “You are preachers of beauty!”
“Beauty does good, beauty heals, beauty carries you forward on the journey,” he said.
Pope Francis also responded to several questions posed by participants. In response, he stressed the importance of “witness and accompaniment” in speaking to modern-day youth and in attempts to preach the Gospel to them.
On the subject of art, Francis said that “whoever is on the journey is searching, and art attracts to a journey.” Whoever is on a journey, he said, has the awareness of being expected, and that “someone is waiting for me.”
He voiced hope that art would “open doors, touch hearts, and help us to walk forward,” and spoke of an ethics for art, saying that among other things, it brings “respect for the person, for the path they take.”
The role of art, he said, is to put “a thorn in the heart, which moves you to contemplation, and contemplation attracts you to a path.”
At the close of Thursday’s session, participants gathered the commitments they discussed during the summit, and the pope, according to the statement, assured them that he would treasure the things he heard, “keeping them in his heart.”
He then greeted each person present individually, and after a nearly two-hour conversation, left shortly after 5 p.m. to return to his residence.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen