Pope Francis explains "...inspiration of artistic and architectural creativity, which in the Christian vision springs precisely from liturgical life, from the action of the Spirit..."

To dear Brother
Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça
Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education
President of the Coordination Council between Pontifical Academies
On the occasion of the XXVI solemn public session of the Pontifical Academies, I am pleased to address you, Your Eminence, my best wishes for your service as President of the Coordination Council between the Pontifical Academies. In fact, with your appointment as Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, you also assumed this task, to be carried out in the spirit and according to the formulation of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium (cf. Art. 162). At the same time, I wish to express my gratitude to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who presided over the Coordination Council for fifteen years, giving a notable boost to the life of the Pontifical Academies and enhancing public sessions. I therefore greet with deep gratitude the illustrious Presidents and Members present, as well as the distinguished Authorities and all those taking part in the traditional meeting, in which, in turn, each Academy presents a theme pertaining to its own field of activity.
The present Public Session featured the Pontifical Insigne Academy of Fine Letters and Arts of the Virtuosi al Pantheon, the oldest of the institutions represented in the Council. The President, Prof. Pio Baldi, and the Academicians have solicited, for this edition of the Prize, the proposals of those who, in various capacities, deal with sacred architecture, and therefore with planning, setting up, liturgical adaptation, restructuring and reuse of spaces intended for worship, taking into account the new needs and contemporary architectural language.
The theme is extremely significant and topical, since the debate on the proposals for the renewal of sacred architecture is always alive, and sometimes even lively, which has the arduous task of creating, especially in new districts, both on the outskirts of cities and in small urban centres, adequate spaces in which the Christian community can worthily celebrate the holy liturgy according to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
We know well how important the celebratory environment is to foster prayer and the sense of communion: the space, the light, the acoustics, the colours, the images, the symbols, the liturgical furnishings constitute fundamental elements of that reality, of that event, human and divine at the same time, which is precisely the liturgy.
For this reason, I would like to refer to the recent Apostolic Letter Desideriodesirevi, dedicated precisely to the liturgical formation of the People of God, to underline two aspects that can certainly also apply to architectural and artistic problems. In the first place, it is essential to rediscover the symbolic language and be able to understand it: "Having lost the ability to understand the symbolic value of the body and of every creature makes the symbolic language of the Liturgy almost inaccessible to modern man. However, it is not a question of giving up this language: it is not possible to give it up because it is what the Most Holy Trinity has chosen to reach us in the flesh of the Word. Rather, it is a question of recovering the ability to place and understand the symbols of the liturgy" (n. 44).
Another essential aspect is that of the inspiration of artistic and architectural creativity, which in the Christian vision springs precisely from liturgical life, from the action of the Spirit and not only from human subjectivity: "It is necessary - continues the Apostolic Letter - to know how the Holy Spirit acts in every celebration: the art of celebrating must be in harmony with the action of the Spirit. Only in this way will it be free from subjectivisms [...] and culturalisms [...]. Technique is enough for a craftsman; an artist, in addition to technical knowledge, cannot lack inspiration, which is a positive form of possession: the artist, the real one, does not possess an art, he is possessed by it" (nos. 49-50).
Accepting now the proposals that the Pontifical Academies have formulated for the Prize of this edition, I am pleased to assign, with the Gold Medal of the Pontificate, the Prize of the Pontifical Academies to the OPPS Studio, for a rearrangement and liturgical adaptation of the chapel of the Foundation of Saints Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena in Rome.
With pleasure I then award the Silver Medal of the Pontificate to the architect Federica Frino, for the project of the new church of San Tommaso in Pontedera.
Dear Brother, I wish you and each of the Academicians a fruitful commitment in their respective fields of research and service and, entrusting you to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Temple and Ark of the New Covenant, I recommend your prayers and I cordially impart to you and to all present the Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, March 14, 2023