Internationally renowned artists and leaders of the entertainment industry gathered at the Vatican for a private audience with Pope Francis on Thursday afternoon, 1 September, to conclude the first-ever Vitae Summit, a two-day event on “how to foster a culture of encounter, hope, and unity through arts, media and entertainment”.
Speaking to the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Luis Quinelli, founder and president of Vitae Global, the non-profit organization spearheading the event, said the goal of Vitae Summit is to promote universal values and counteract the polarization and negativity that — often fuelled by social media — permeate society today. “There are different challenges we are facing”, said the Argentine businessman and entrepreneur. “Basically losing the ability of having a good conversation, dialogue at a table, different people — totally different people — and having the opportunity to know each other, to understand the other person very deeply, and then finding the common things”.
Over 20 musicians, actors and executives representing the entertainment industry attended the two-day event. Among them were Patricia Heaton, Jonathan Roumie, Edwina Findley, J Balvin, Alessia Cara, Darius Marder, Marcus Mumford, David Oyelowo, Jessica Oyelowo and Eduardo Verastegui.
They began with a private tour of the Vatican Museums on Wednesday, 31 August, followed by some time for reflection in the Sistine Chapel and a group dinner. On the second day, participants had group discussions about the current status of the arts and entertainment industry, to identify specific challenges and, explained Quinelli, “start thinking together of what kind of things we can build together”, because “there are a lot of beautiful things that different artists are producing, are doing, but we think that in order to transform the culture, we need to work together”.
The event concluded with the long anticipated Papal audience in Casina Pio IV in the Vatican. Artists had the opportunity to share their thoughts with Pope Francis, who, according to a communiqué from Matteo Bruno, Director of the Holy See Press Office, “indicated some paths of communication, like truth, goodness and, particularly for artists, beauty, a journey of contemplation”.
According to the communiqué, the Holy Father also emphasized the importance of reaching young people and communicating the Gospel message to them. He encouraged those present to promote art that demonstrates “respect for the person, for the journey he or she is on”.
“You are preachers of beauty!” the Pope told participants. “Beauty does good, beauty heals, beauty carries you forward on the journey!”.
It’s a journey that has been underway for some time. The Pope had in fact met with Quinelli and other event organizers at Casa Santa Marta in the months leading up to the Summit. “He likes to listen”, said Quinelli, “and he wants to listen to the artists and what they are doing, though the artists are the ones that every day are communicating messages to the 8 billion people around the world”.
It was an extraordinary start to what the Vitae Global team hopes will be a series of similar events in key locations around the world, including Mexico City, Los Angeles, and of course, what Quinelli describes as “the Vatican of the entertainment industry”: Hollywood, to transform a culture of negativity and polarization into one of unity, dialogue and fraternity.