VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Christian art is, ultimately, a testimony to the beauty of God, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope made that point today when receiving the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums in audience. In his brief address in English, the Holy Father thanked them for their help, which has made possible the conservation and restoration of the Vatican Museums that assist “the Church’s evangelizing mission.”
“In every age,” the Pontiff said, “Christians have sought to give expression to faith’s vision of the beauty and order of God’s creation, the nobility of our vocation as men and women made in his image and likeness, and the promise of a cosmos redeemed and transfigured by the grace of Christ.”
“The artistic treasures which surround us are not simply impressive monuments of a distant past,” Benedict XVI observed. “Rather, for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who contemplate them year after year, they stand as a perennial witness to the Church’s unchanging faith in the Triune God who, in the memorable phrase of St. Augustine, is himself ‘Beauty ever ancient, ever new.'”
The Patrons of the Arts have been in existence since 1983 when a major exhibition from the Vatican went to the United States.
Some 15,000 visitors tour the Vatican Museums daily, but ticket sales cover only day-to-day costs. The museums are not supported directly by the Holy See. That often means there is little money for restoration or modernization.
Patrons donate a minimum of $500 a year per person for a regular membership, $1,000 a year for a family membership, or $250 per person for a junior membership (35 and under). The donations are used to fund conservation projects, buy equipment for the museums’ restoration laboratories, help with capital improvements, and occasionally to assist in the acquisition of artworks.
Patrons come from all religious backgrounds and are grouped into chapters throughout North America and Europe.