European Christian Artists Flock to Shrine

150 Professionals Huddle in Oropa, Italy

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OROPA, Italy, SEPT. 7, 2001 ( For the first, the International Seminar of European Christian Artists was held in the Italian Shrine of Oropa, a five-day festival of art and prayer.

This event has a great tradition in the Netherlands, where it is celebrated annually in Doorn.

Some 150 people, including professors, professionals and artists in fields such as music, dance, painting, sculpture and mime joined in the ecumenical meeting, which ended Monday.

«Spirituality and art are simultaneously present here,» gospel singer Aurelio Pitino told ZENIT, explaining the reason for the choice of venue.

This sacred place in northern Italy is dedicated to Our Lady of Oropa, represented by a Black Virgin, a wooden sculpture brought here, according to tradition, by St. Eusebius. Legend attributes the sculpture itself to St. Luke.

«We have experienced … great communion, in two moments of the multifestival: holy Mass and prayer,» Pitino said.

The celebration of Mass attracted evangelical artists. The Spring Dance Company of England performed during the Offertory. Irene Coronado of Guatemala sang the Psalms. Canadian gospel singer Denis Grady also performed.

Aurelio Pitino explained that the idea stemmed from his experience 10 years ago as artistic director of multifestivals. For six years he organized the Italian Magnificat multifestival. Since 1998 Pitino has promoted the Anno Domini Association, which sponsors the new initiative.

«We have refurbished the old formula, because the years go by and change must be allowed, although we keep the place because in Oropa one breathes spirituality everywhere; the frescoes and all the surroundings also transmit art, beauty and communion with God,» the artistic director said.

In the afternoons, ecumenical prayer offered the chance for mutual witness of faith. In the evenings, the artists performed. The Holy Rock Cafe gave night owls the chance to organize jam sessions until midnight.

Outstanding professors included Dutchman Leen La Riviere, soul of the multifestival of the Netherlands.

It was in such a setting, that Pitino said he «found the Lord» and «recovered the roots of my faith.» He went from being a pop singer to a gospel singer.

A pleased Pitino is already thinking of a second multifestival for the summer of 2002.

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