Forum: ‘Expo 2015: UK and Holy See Make a Buzz’

British Ambassador to Holy See Reflects on Holy See Day at Expo 2015 in Milan

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Below is a reflection of British Ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker, entitled ‘Expo 2015: UK and Holy See Make a Buzz.’ Published on June 12th, it is from Ambassador Baker’s blog available on the British Embassy to the Holy See Website:


It was Holy See day this week at Expo 2015 in Milan. Expo is like a world fair, with this year 145 countries represented including 53 national pavilions (the Holy See has one) based around the theme “Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life”. Reminding us that “man does not live by bread alone”, the Holy See took an imaginative line, emphasising the family table as a place of human encounter and dialogue, over a meal, while doing the homework, or talking about the issues of the day. Tintoretto’s Last Supper loomed above us, reminding us that faith as well as dialogue springs from the table; a place where through meeting, talking, listening and prayer – followed by action – humanity’s many problems can, if we have the will, be solved.

It was a useful reminder that Expo is more than a trade fair, although some of the national pavilions I saw did seem most intent on selling things or advertising the country brand. The first such event the Holy See attended was the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, at a time when the UK and Holy See still did not have diplomatic relations. They have also been at the great world fairs of St Louis in 1904, and New York in 1964, where Michelangelo’s Pietà was a star attraction.

There, as in Milan, the Holy See was reminding us of the human values behind commercial activity and technological ingenuity. This was emphasised by the orchestra the Holy See invited to provide musical accompaniment to their national day. Esagramma is made of 50 musicians, 25 of them with severe learning disabilities, who played pieces from Dvorak, Grieg and Beethoven. It was a brilliant example of nutrition being as vital for the soul as for the body, and they rightly received a standing ovation.

The UK pavilion, opposite the Holy See, is one of the most innovative and creative examples of how to present the best of a country without the hard sell, and is deservedly one of the most popular. Its brilliant design leads visitors through a wildflower meadow towards a giant metal hive, vibrating to and illuminated by the activity of 50,000 bees in a real beehive in Nottingham through some extraordinary digital technology. Science, art and nature combine to give a clear and bold message about the importance of man’s stewardship of the natural world to his future prosperity. You can also get excellent food and drink at the Anton Mosimann restaurant on site!

I am partisan, but the UK and the Holy See provide two of the most thought-provoking experiences at Expo Milan 2015. If you have a chance before the end of October, I recommend you get there to see for yourself.


On the NET:

To the original post on Ambassador Baker’s blog:

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Nigel Baker

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