40. Cultural institutions also do a great deal to further the work of development. Their important role was stressed by the Council: “. . . the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser (persons) are forthcoming. It should also be pointed out that many nations, poorer in economic goods, are quite rich in wisdom and can offer noteworthy advantages to others.” (Gaudium et Spes 15)
When Pope Paul VI wrote of “institutions,” I believe he had a broad and inclusive notion of the term.
Every country, rich or poor, has a cultural tradition handed down from past generations. This tradition includes institutions required by life in the world, and higher manifestations— artistic, intellectual and religious—of the life of the spirit. When the latter embody truly human values, it would be a great mistake to sacrifice them for the sake of the former.
This is very much along the lines of what Pope Francis has said with regard to tending to roots and respecting the wisdom of previous generations. A person, a generation, a culture without roots has plunged into a deep and lamentable form of poverty.
Any group of people who would consent to let this happen, would be giving up the better portion of their heritage; in order to live, they would be giving up their reason for living. Christ’s question is directed to nations also: “What does it profit a (person), if (they) gain the whole world but suffer the loss of (their) own soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
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