Benedict XVI to Visit Museum as Well as Synagogue

Special Exhibit Opens for Sunday Tour

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By Carmen Elena Villa

ROME, JAN. 14, 2010 ( Benedict XVI on Sunday will visit not only Rome’s synagogue, but also the Jewish Museum of the Eternal City. 

For the occasion, the museum has organized an exhibit called «Et Ecce Gaudium»: The Jews of Rome and the Investiture Ceremony of the Popes.» The exhibit will present to the public panels dating from the 1700s that had been thought lost.

The exhibit was presented today at a press conference held in the museum.

The display will show paintings and documents that explain the role of Rome’s Jewish community for the investiture ceremonies of the popes of the 1700s.

During the ceremonies, the new pope would ride on horseback in procession from the Vatican to St. John Lateran. The Jewish community decorated a stretch of the route from the Coliseum to the Arch of Titus, with large panels carrying symbolic figures and quotes.

These panels — intended to be disposable — were thought to have been lost, but 14 of them resurfaced in the Historical Archives of the Jewish Community of Rome. The museum exhibit will include panels from the pontificates of Clement XII (1730), Clement XIII (1758), Clement XIV (1769) and Pius VI (1775).

The panels are considered to reflect an important chapter in the relationship between the Church and the Jewish community. 

The exhibition will be open to the public from Jan. 18 to March 11.

A first

Italy officially declared the archive of Rome’s Jewish community to be of «notable historical interest» in 1981. It houses documents from the beginning of the 16th century to the years following World War II.

There will be an opening ceremony for Benedict XVI’s visit, which will be attended by Riccardo Di Segni, rabbi of Rome.

«Pope Benedict XVI is the first Pontiff to visit a Jewish museum, just as the Jewish Museum of Rome is the first Jewish museum to be visited by a Pope,» Daniela Di Castro, director of the museum, noted during the press conference. «Hence, it is an immense honor for our museum, and with it opens for us the celebrations of the 50th anniversary.»

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