Rome Inaugurates a Parish Church Dedicated to Merciful God

Designed by New York Architect Richard Meier

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ROME, OCT. 28, 2003 ( Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s vicar for Rome, presided over a solemn Mass to dedicate the new church “Dives in Misericordia” to God the Merciful Father.

The church, an expression of the Jubilee Year 2000, is located in Tor Tre Teste, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome. Faithful crowded into the church for the ceremony on Sunday, spilling into adjacent streets. The new building is already considered one of the “wonders” of Rome and is mentioned in architecture manuals.

The church has a huge, luminous, white nave with a profusion of candles, the inspiration of New York Jewish architect Richard Meier, 69, who wished to “construct a building that would offer those who enter it a great sign of spirituality,” its pastor, Father Gianfranco Corbino, told Vatican Radio.

It was the Holy Father’s wish to dedicate a church to God the Merciful Father, the main theme of the Jubilee. The new structure is one of 50 that the Italian episcopal conference has been constructing since 1991 in new neighborhoods on the outskirts of the Italian capital, in connection with the Jubilee.

Technical circumstances made it impossible to inaugurate the church to God the Father within the framework of the Jubilee. Nevertheless, it has been completed “at an important time for the life of the Church: the 25 years of John Paul II’s pontificate” and “in a certain sense, it is a gift of the diocese to its Bishop,” said Monsignor Luigi Moretti, assistant director of the Diocese of Rome.

The project entailed 12,000 hours of study and 23,000 hours of work, resulting in a church extending over 800 square meters and an adjacent parish center of more than 1,600 square meters.

“Symbolically, the church of the Merciful God is a great boat with three sails that enters the neighborhood,” Father Corbino explained. “It also represents the boat of the Church entering the third millennium. This is the particular meaning Richard Meier has tried to express. The three sails symbolize the Trinity.”

Meier acknowledged that he was inspired by his many visits to Rome, which have enabled him “to study and assimilate the architecture of the Eternal City,” and of the architects which he has always considered as most important: Borromini, Bernini and Bramante.

He designed the church of Tor Tre Teste to have an extraordinary light and to transmit “a sense of openness and welcome in the style of Bernini’s colonnade in St. Peter’s Square, which embraces you as you approach the church,” he said.

The church rises 26 meters (85 feet) and was constructed with more than 100 tons of white cement with titanium. The three sails are built with reinforced concrete.

“It is a project of the highest quality that includes a precise idea of liturgical space, of relationship with the divinity: It is nourished by the latter and transforms it coherently into an object, that is, into space,” said professor Sergio Petruccioli of the School of Architecture of Valle Giulia of Rome’s La Sapienza University.

He added that to “have introduced in an urban and anonymous environment — the Tor Tre Teste neighborhood, deprived of all quality — a jewel of quality and space is very significant from the point of view of the representation that the Jubilee wished to give of the role of the Church in relation to the rescue of the weakest and most marginalized social classes.”

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