By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The beauty of the Christian faith lies not in its theological explanations but in the lives of people who dedicate themselves to prayer, charity and sharing the Gospel, Pope Francis said.

“Communicating faith is first and foremost a matter of beauty. But beauty is not explained, it is shown,” Pope Francis told pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, Italy, who made a pilgrimage to the Vatican as part of their celebrations of the 825th anniversary of the consecration of their iconic cathedral.

“Your cathedral, with its magnificent chapels, holds stories of life and faith, holds holiness and beauty,” the pope told the pilgrims May 20. “It is a testimony of history, of life, of beauty, of holiness.”

Pope Francis urged the pilgrims not to simply expect people to discover that beauty and holiness on their own, but to work to bring it to light so that others can see it like “a restorer does when he uncovers the colors of an ancient fresco.”

The most precious treasures of the Catholic Church, he said, are not buildings like the Spoleto cathedral but “prayer, charity done in secret, the power of forgiveness” and “the sacrifices of pastors, the lives of so many ‘saints next door,’ the witness of parents, families, the elderly.”

“Be discoverers of beauty, seekers of the treasures of faith,” the pope told the pilgrims. Do not stop at the surface of things but try “to see beyond, appreciating and embracing the heritage of holiness and service that is the church’s wealth.”

Once that wealth is discovered, he said, it must be increased, “because faith cannot remain a memory of the past, something ‘museum-like.’ No, it always lives again in the joy of the Gospel, in the community made up of people, in the assembly of those who experience mercy and recognize themselves as brothers and sisters loved by God by grace.”

“Always remember: the witness of life communicates the beauty of faith,” he said.

Before meeting the Spoleto pilgrims, Pope Francis went to the small square between his residence and St. Peter’s Basilica to encounter hundreds of youngsters from the Archdiocese of Genoa, Italy, who were preparing for confirmation.