Pope Francis outraged Catholics worldwide after he welcomed controversial photographer Andres Serrano, who is famed for submerging a model of Jesus Christ on the crucifix in his urine, to the Vatican.
Serrano, the creator of the controversial “art piece” of Jesus on the crucifix in urine, dubbed “P*ss Christ,” was one of 200 artists Pope Francis welcomed to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its collection of contemporary art.
“Thank you for accepting my invitation; I am happy to be with you because the Church has always had a relationship with artists that can be described as both natural and special,” the pontiff told the artists, including Serrano.
“A natural friendship, because artists take seriously the richness of human existence, of our lives and the life of the world, including its contradictions and its tragic aspects,” the Pope said.
“This richness risks disappearing from the view of the many specialized disciplines that respond to immediate needs, but find it difficult to view life as a polyhedron, a complex and multifaceted reality.”
When ‘P*ss Christ’ was exhibited in 1989, some 50 U.S. senators and 150 representatives complained that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which is taxpayer-funded, financed the exhibition. The NEA’s budget was eventually cut as a result.”
However, Serrano played dumb about why it was offensive, saying, “I had no idea Piss Christ would get the attention it did since I meant neither blasphemy nor offense by it. I’ve been a Catholic all my life, so I am a follower of Christ.”
Pope Francis continued:
“Artists remind us that the dimension in which we move, even unconsciously, is always that of the Spirit. Your art is like a sail swelling with the wind of the Spirit and propelling us forward.”
“The Church’s friendship with the arts is thus something quite natural. Yet, at the same time, it is also a special friendship, especially if we think of the many periods of history that we have traveled together and which are part of the patrimony of everyone, whether believers or non-believers,” the Pope added.
“Mindful of this, let us look forward to a new season of rich fruits in our own time, born of a climate of listening, freedom and respect. People need those fruits, those special fruits.”
“As visionaries, men and women of discernment, and critical consciences, I consider you allies in so many things that are dear to me, like the defense of human life, social justice, concern for the poor, care for our common home, universal human fraternity,” the speech continued.
“The humanness of humanity is dear to me, the human dimension of humanity. Because that is also the great passion of God. One of the things that draws art closer to faith is the fact that both tend to be troubling.”
“Neither art nor faith can leave things simply as they are: they change, transform, move and convert them. Art can never serve as an anesthetic; it brings peace, yet far from deadening consciences, it keeps them alert,” the Pope added.
“Often, as artists, you attempt to plumb the depths of the human condition, its dark abysses. We are not all light, and you remind us of this.’
“At the same time, there is a need to let the light of hope shine in that darkness, in the midst of our selfishness and indifference. Help us to glimpse the light, the beauty that saves.”