Via Pulchritudinis: Introduction

Starting our examination of this 2006 document, let’s look at three things. First, the title as given:

The Via Pulchritudinis,
Privileged Pathway for Evangelization and Dialogue

The English translation: the way of beauty. As we get deeper into the document, we’ll see how the Pontifical Council for Culture defines the word and where they see it in the Church and in human culture.

I feel cautious about applying the word too widely. A catchphrase I’ve seen a lot the past few years, “the beauty of the Catholic faith” doesn’t resonate with me. And if it doesn’t strike me, it likely doesn’t with non-believers either. I think specialists can discern beauty. Mathematicians in elegant equations and solutions. A bookkeeper with a balanced budget after long complications. Something in the eye of a particular beholder.

As for evangelization and dialogue, I think we can say beauty is a privileged path. Certainly not the only. Pope Benedict is cited in a superscript:

“There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of (people), can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world.”

Benedict XVI
Homily at the Mass for the Inauguration of his Pontificate
24 April 2005

Perhaps a specialist’s perception of beauty: serving the Lord and relating something of our relationship with others.


The theme chosen by the Pontifical Council for Culture for its 2006 plenary assembly follows in the wake of preceding assemblies in seeking to assist the Church to transmit faith in Christ through a pastoral approach that responds to the challenges of contemporary culture, notably religious indifference and unbelief. (cf. Motu proprio, Inde a Pontificatus) With projects and concrete proposals, it seeks to help pastors follow the via pulchritudinis, as a pathway of evangelization of cultures and dialogue with non-believers, leading to Christ, “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14,6)

If “indifference and unbelief” was a concern in the mid-00’s, it certainly is no less so today. The Church itself has not been indifferent to the challenges presented in the modern world. Some problems have been self-inflicted. We seem most vulnerable to our own errors and sins. But there is a recognition we are struggling and on some fronts, making no progress.

In part, Via Pulchritudinis will have a practical strain–real suggestions for individuals, faith communities, clerics, artists, and others to explore. The other aspect will be an attempt to introduce the “way of beauty” to those who haven’t previously considered the intersection of beauty and evangelization. Exciting stuff ahead–and I say that as a specialist. But perhaps you readers will find the document enlightening.

The full text is here.

Image: the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris, By Zachi Evenor based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg by Julie Anne Workman – CC BY-SA 2.0,

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Art, evangelization, Via Pulchritudinis. Bookmark the permalink.

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