Pope Francis has dedicated the month of August to praying for artists, praising them in his latest prayer video as heralds of God's beauty, and asking that through their work, they would help humanity discover the wonder of creation.
The video opens with the Pope telling viewers in his native Spanish that “the arts give expression to the beauty of the faith and proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God's creation,” as musicians sit outside holding their instruments with nothing but the sound of nature in the background.
As the musicians begin playing their different instruments, such as the violin, saxophone and various unique, cultural instruments from around the world, Francis says that “when we admire a work of art or a marvel of nature, we discover how everything speaks to us of him and of his love.”
Images of other artists, such as painters and dancers, flash across the scene as the Pope closes by praying “that the artists of our time, through their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation.”
First launched during the Jubilee of Mercy, the videos are part of an initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer and are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center and the Argentinian marketing association La Machi.
The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church.
Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, “universal” intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.
Starting in January, rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis has elected to have only one prepared prayer intention – the universal intention featured in the prayer video – and will add a second intention focused on an urgent or immediate need if one arises.
The prayer intentions typically highlight issues of importance not only for Pope Francis, but for the world, such as families, the environment, the poor and homeless, Christians who are persecuted and youth.
Pope Francis has often praised artists – usually circus performers who put on a show during a general audience – for their contribution to beauty, and has made special efforts to make the Vatican's treasures available to those who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to see them.
In October 2013, just a few months after his election, the Pope held an audience with the Patrons of the Arts, established some 30 years ago to fund restoration projects in the Vatican museums.
“In every age the Church has called upon the arts to give expression to the beauty of her faith and to proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God’s creation, the dignity of human beings made in his image and likeness, and the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to bring redemption and rebirth to a world touched by the tragedy of sin and death,” he told the patrons.
Rome’s “countless” pilgrims and visitors encounter the Gospel message through the art that is found in the Vatican Museums, he said, adding that the pieces featured “bear witness to the spiritual aspirations of humanity, the sublime mysteries of the Christian faith, and the quest of that supreme beauty which has its source and fulfillment in God.”
In March 2015, the Pope invited a group of 150 homeless for dinner and a private tour of the Vatican museums and the Vatican City State on the premise that beauty is for everyone.
A year later, in June 2016, the Pope received some 6,000 traveling performers in the Vatican for the Jubilee of Circus Performers, telling them that while their work is demanding and at times unstable, it enables them to bring light to an often dark world.
“You are artisans of celebration, of wonder, of the beautiful: with these qualities you enrich the society of the entire world,” he told the group, which performed various acts for the pontiff.
He told them that through their work, they help to nourish hope and confidence via performances “that have the ability to elevate the soul.”
Similarly, in December of the same year, Pope Francis sent a message to the annual meeting of the Pontifical Academies naming the winners of that year's Pontifical Academies Award, whom he had chosen.
In the letter, the Pope said “architects and painters, sculptors and musicians, filmmakers and writers, photographers and poets, artists of every discipline, are called to shine beauty especially where darkness or gray dominates everyday life.”
These people, he said, “are the custodians of beauty, heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity.”