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SYNOD-ART Oct-15-2008 (450 words) xxxi

Art as bridge to Scripture emerges as a topic at Synod of Bishops

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The use of art as a bridge to Scripture and faith has emerged as a significant subtheme at the Synod of Bishops on the Bible.

Bishop Friedhelm Hofmann of Wurzburg, Germany, told the synod that the history of Christian architecture, figurative art, music and literature offered a valuable resource, one that should be used to incite the curiosity of people who do not attend church.

Using artistic works can help explain the importance of "Christian culture" and eventually lead people to the faith, he said Oct. 11. At the same time, the church should reach out to artists and involve them in the proclamation of the word of God, he said.

Some Eastern Catholic bishops spoke at the synod about the rich tradition of Oriental iconography, describing the icon as an expression of "visual theology" with specific shapes, colors and symbols that can aid in the contemplation of Scripture.

The theme of art was picked up Oct. 14 by synod observer Natalja Fedorova Borovskaja, an art history professor at the Russian Academy of Fine Arts.

She said that as a young woman growing up under state atheism in the Soviet Union, she never thought about God except when encountering works of art, music and literature.

"For me, Christian art, especially Russian icons and Italian Renaissance painting, became a route to the space of God's life," she said.

To promote art's relationship with Scripture, she said three things were important:

-- Receiving the work of art in the heart "like a prayer."

-- Highlighting the deep religious symbolism in art, recognizing that "the life of art in the world is the sacred history of God's mercy."

-- Seeing the artist in the light of God's love. That means accepting that the lives of many artists are crossed by sins, mistakes and temptations, but also by moments of light and the creation of highly spiritual works, she said.

"Not every painter lived like Fra Angelico," she said, referring to the 15th-century Florentine monk who spent much of his life painting in his monastery.

Organizers of the Oct. 5-26 synod have tried to highlight artistic works on the margins of the daily assemblies of the 253 participants.

Illustrations from the St. John's Bible, a hand-copied and hand-illuminated version of the Scriptures, have been displayed in the atrium of the synod hall and are being reproduced on synod liturgical booklets.

On Oct. 13, Pope Benedict XVI and the entire synod took a break from speech-giving and attended a concert in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The Vienna Philharmonic performed the sixth symphony of Anton Bruckner, a 19th-century Austrian composer whose music was strongly influenced by his Christian faith.


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