When Faith and Artistic Creativity Meet

First Congress Held on "Poetry and Christianity"

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ROME, MAY 4, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The first congress on "Poetry and Christianity," which closed here last week, took a look at how faith and art have interacted throughout history.



Included in that mix is philosophy, cinema, storytelling and theology -- which is why "Blade Runner," the Bible and Dante Alighieri were some of the names that resounded at the congress, held at the University of the Holy Cross.

"Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra and John Ford, three of the greatest film directors of the 20th century, were practicing Catholics," said professor William Park, of Sarah Lawrence College of Bronxville, New York, in response to those who maintain that Christianity has suppressed creativity.

Professor María Antonia Labrada of the University of Navarre distinguished between "the Greek myth, centered on nature, and Christian mythology, dedicated to action, the moral realm and history."

Professor José Miguel Ibáñez of the University of the Andes, of Santiago, Chile, talked about the presence of God in contemporary poetry. Ibáñez spoke about how the religious theme is latent in the poetry of our time.

Focusing on the subjects of the Incarnation and Nativity, the speaker recited some poems and stressed that even the tradition of "accursed poets or agonizing believers will give witness of the Christian God by way of anguished doubt or even of curse and blasphemy."

For his part, Cesare Cavalleri, editor of the Italian review Studi Cattolici, cautioned against the temptation to see a Catholic thinker in every artist or literary figure. "It is not enough for a poet to mention God or the guardian angel to recruit him among 'our own.'"

What is more, Cavalleri stressed, a bad "poem is bad even if written by a Catholic with the best intentions."

François Livi of the Sorbonne University in Paris explained that "it is worthwhile to recall how knowledge of the Bible is the great code of our culture, an indispensable key to understand our literatures."

Paul Dumol of the University of Asia and the Pacific, in Manila, Philippines, explained that what "the Christian faith has offered and can offer literature is the Christian view of the human being, life, society and history, indeed, of reality."

"This reality is created, and that is a source of optimism -- a deep optimism, as opposed to a superficial one, because the Christian faith is not blind to disasters, pain and death," he said.

"In addition, the Christian view of the human being is that he has been saved -- a further source of optimism and hope," Dumol stressed.

"Again this view is not superficial, but deep, because it includes the reality of sin -- what the human being is saved from -- and at its heart is the cross: suffering," he continued.

"There is nothing sentimental about the Christian faith, and the claim has been made that it is only Christians who truly understand what evil is," he added. "At the same time, for the Christian faith the human being has a dimension of mystery that can never be totally clarified. The Son of God became man; what that implies about human nature is something literature can explore endlessly."

The School of Institutional Communication of the University of the Holy Cross hopes to hold the symposium every two years.