Prof John Haldane appointed Consultor to Pontifical Council for Culture


The Holy Father has appointed Prof John Haldane to the prestigious role of Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture.

John Haldane, 51, is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Saint Andrews. He is author of a number of publications, most recently Faithful Reason: essays Catholic and philosophical (2004). He has written for the Times and the Tablet, in addition to broadcasting with the BBC.

"One of Pope Benedict's priorities is the re-evangelisation of Western civilisation and bringing Europe back into Christendom. The way to re-evangelise Western civilisation is through cultural dialogue; that is through re-interpreting the arts and philosophy through a Christian perspective," said Prof Haldane.

"There is a larger issue than declining numbers in churches and that is about convincing at a cultural and intellectual level. As a Catholic intellectual, I am very happy to be associated with this." There are now 27 Consultors worldwide to the Council and the appointment is for five years.

Editor's notes:

1. The Council's Aims and Tasks

A. - The Pontifical Council for Culture is that department (Dicastery) of the Roman Curia which assists the Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the benefit and service of the universal Church and of particular Churches concerning the encounter between the saving message of the Gospel and cultures, in the study of the weighty phenomena of: the rift between the Gospel and cultures; indifference in matters of religion; unbelief. It is also concerned with relationships between the Church and the Holy See and the world of culture; in particular it promotes dialogue with contemporary cultures, so that human civilisation may become increasingly open to the Gospel, and so that men and women of science, letters and the arts may know that the Church acknowledges their work as a service to truth, goodness and beauty.

Furthermore, the Pontifical Council for Culture oversees and co-ordinates the activities of the Pontifical Academies, and co-operates on a regular basis with the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church.

The Council has been given the following tasks:

1. - To promote the encounter between the saving message of the Gospel and the cultures of our time, often marked by unbelief or religious indifference, in order that they may be increasingly open to the Christian faith, which creates culture and is an inspirational source of science, literature and the arts (Cf. the Motu Proprio "Inde a Pontificatus", Art. 1).

2. - To manifest the Church's pastoral concern in the face of the serious phenomena of the rift between the Gospel and cultures. It therefore promotes the study of the problem of unbelief and religious indifference found in various forms in different cultural milieus, inquiring into their causes and the consequences for Christian faith, in order to offer adequate support to the Church's pastoral activity in evangelising cultures and inculturating the Gospel (Cf. ibid., Art. 2).

3. 3. To foster the Church's and the Holy See's relations with the world of culture, by undertaking appropriate initiatives concerning the dialogue between faith and cultures, and intercultural dialogue. The Council oversees initiatives undertaken by the Church's various institutions and offers its co-operation to the corresponding organs of Bishops' Conferences (Cf. ibid., Art. 3).

4. - To establish dialogue with those who do not believe in God or who profess no religion, provided they are open to genuine co-operation. The Council organises and participates in study congresses in this field by means of experts (Cf. ibid., Art. 4).

5. - To oversee and co-ordinate the activities of the Pontifical Academies (Cf. ibid., II and the 1982 letter of foundation), while respecting the autonomy of their respective research programmes, so as to promote multidisciplinary research and to make the work of the Academies more widely known (Norms for the renewal of the Pontifical Academies, 7).

6. - To be involved in the cultural concerns encountered by the departments of the Holy See in the course of their work, and to work on projects organised together with some of them, in such a way as to facilitate their tasks in the evangelisation of cultures, and to ensure co-ordination between the Holy See's cultural institutions (Cf. 1982 letter of foundation).

7. - To enter into dialogue with Bishops' Conferences, and with Conferences of Major Religious Superiors, in order to allow the whole Church to benefit from research programmes and other initiatives, achievements and productions which allow local Churches to take an active part in their own cultural environment (Cf. ibid.).

8. - To co-operate with Catholic universities and international organisations of a historical, philosophical, theological, scientific, artistic or intellectual nature, and to promote co-operation amongst them.

9. - To keep up with the activities of international bodies like UNESCO and the Council of Europe, which are concerned with culture, the philosophy of science and human sciences, and to ensure the effective participation of the Holy See in international congresses concerned with science, culture and education (Cf. ibid.).

10. - To keep up with the cultural policies and activities of governments throughout the world (Cf. ibid.).

11. - To facilitate Church-culture dialogue at the level of universities and research centres, organisations of artists and specialists, researchers and scholars, and to promote meetings of note in and through these sectors of culture (Cf. ibid.).

12. - To welcome to Rome representatives of culture interested in a better understanding of the Church's activities in this field, and in ways of allowing the Holy See to benefit from their rich experience, by offering them a place in Rome where they can meet and dialogue.

2. The structure of the Council The Pontifical Council for Culture has two sections: 1. Faith and Culture, 2. Dialogue with Cultures.

1. Day-to-day work is entrusted to the permanent staff resident in Rome, viz.:

  • * the President, Cardinal Paul Poupard (France)
  • * the Secretary, Father Bernard Ardura, O. Praem. (France)
  • * the Under-secretary, Mons. Melchor Sánchez de Toca y Alameda (Spain),
  • * the Head of Office, Mons. Gergely Kovács (Romania),
  • * the Officials, 6 priests and 1 laic who are responsible for geographical areas and the various fields in which the Council works (science, Catholic cultural centres, art and artists, communications media, Pontifical Academies, sects and so on)
  • * 7 other administrative and technical assistants.

2. The Council has a Plenary Assembly at least once every three years. Its purpose is to evaluate and plan the department's programmes, and to pool experiences and reflections on the variety of cultural situations in contemporary societies. All of this is done in the context of evangelisation and the Church's dialogue with cultures. Those who are invited are the Members of the Council, cardinals and bishops appointed by the Holy Father for five-year terms. At present there are 13 cardinals and 17 archbishops and bishops from various parts of the world..

3. The Council also relies on Consultors for the study of particularly important questions. These, too, are appointed by the Holy Father for five-year terms. There are currently 26 of them: they come from all over the world, and are specialists in the field of culture or in dialogue with non-believers. They assist the Council by their research and the information and opinions they provide.

3. Activities of the Council The Council's many and varied activities can be condensed into 5 points:

1. Welcoming visitors. There are meetings with bishops who come to Rome for their five-yearly Ad limina visits, and with other groups of visitors (priests, religious, directors of cultural centres and so on). Many people representing the world of culture also visit the Council.

2. Conferences. The Council organises seminars, study days and various other kinds of meetings. It is frequently involved in meetings run by other bodies at regional, national and international levels.

3. Contacts. The Council is in contact with the other departments (Dicasteries) of the Holy See, with bishops' conferences and local Churches, with the Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, with the Holy See's diplomatic representatives to other states, with UNESCO and other international non-government organisations.

4. Publications. The Council publishes a quarterly review entitled Culture e Fede - Cultures et Foi - Cultures and Faith - Culturas y Fe, which has articles and new items in English, French, Italian and Spanish. There are, in addition, books and booklets on the many aspects of the encounter between the Gospel and cultures, and on intercultural dialogue. The Council publishes the proceedings of the more important conferences it organises.

5. Day-to-day work consists of the various types of tasks entrusted to the staff: taking care of correspondence with the universal Church and the world of culture, preparing observations on reports concerning the state of dioceses, preparing instructions for Papal Nuncios, etc.