By Carmen Elena Villa

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2010 ( Artisans from Guanajuato, Mexico, were in Rome this week to present a handcrafted nativity scene to Benedict XVI, and to view a special exhibition in the Vatican Museums featuring Mexican artisanship.

On Wednesday, the Mexican artisans presented to Benedict XVI the life-size nativity scene featuring wax figures and a replica of the facade of the church of the town of Dolores Hidalgo, which was placed in the courtyard of Paul VI Hall.

During the general audience, the Pontiff greeted in a particular manner "the members of the Mexican Catholic community of Rome, as well as the craftsmen from Guanajuato, who are accompanied by the governor of that state and the Archbishop of Leon, whom I thank for the gift of the artistic crib."

Also on Wednesday, the Vatican Museums opened the exhibition titled "Mexican Christmas in the Vatican, Presence of the State of Guanajuato."

During the exhibit's opening, Antonio Paloucci, the director of the museums, reflected on the universality of the Church.

Noting the similarity between the craftmanship by Mexican and Italian artisans, Paloucci note that "we Romans and Italians are moved and touched in our hearts, because it is the testimony of the universality and international nature of our Roman Catholic Church."

"A nativity scene such as this, which the talented Mexican craftsmen have made, is like our Italian, Neapolitan and Sicilian nativity scenes," he added "It is a sign of unity of culture which must be for us a sign of joy."


In the exhibition, which takes place in the context of the celebration of the bicentenary of Mexico's independence, and the centenary of the Mexican Revolution, there are some 1,250 pieces being exhibited, among which are hundreds of artistic pieces of basketry, including Christmas Eve flowers made of palm and reeds, some 500 ceramic spheres, and 200 wall tiles featuring birds and doves made.

There are also some 350 pieces of metal, including spheres, angels, doves, stars, hearts, candelabra and medallions. The works were made by craftsmen of Dolores Hidalgo, Salamanca, Tierra Alta, San Miguel de Allende, Tarandacuao and other towns of Guanajuato.

The exhibition also includes photographs by Mexican artist Gibran Pena.

Faith and art

Archbishop José Martín Rábago of Leon told ZENIT that the pieces chosen for the exhibit were selected for their "expression of popular religiosity." He added that "religion expressed through these works will merit the respect and admiration of the people who come to this museum."

Guanajuato is the Mexican state with the largest percentage of Catholics (95%, according to the 2005 census). "We have kept the faith which has endured the sudden attacks of a secularized culture, and also the presence of other non-Catholic churches," said Archbishop Martin Rabago, who pointed out that one of the main characteristics of this faith is filial piety to Mary, which has been "the fundamental support which has made possible the preservation of the faith of the state of Guanajuato."

For his part, Bishop Jesús Martínez of Iraputo, said to ZENIT that "faith has always been an inspiration" for artists of the state of Guanajuato.

"Now we want to maintain that faith," he added, "because the wealth we have inherited we can lose in moments of secularism if the bishops and the faithful do not start to work in the new evangelization and in the continental mission proclaiming Christ, proposing the faith."

The exhibition will remain open until Feb. 2.