VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is sharing some of its artistic and cultural patrimony with the public through a museum presented today at the congregation’s headquarters in Rome.
The new Missionary Museum of Propaganda Fide was introduced by Father Massimo Ceni of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, undersecretary of the congregation. He was joined by Francesco Buranelli, coordinator of the missionary museum’s academic committee, and Ludovico Ortona, president of an Italian art and culture development group.
The museum is at the headquarters of the congregation, a site it has occupied for nearly 400 years.
Father Cenci described the museum as “complete,” with artistic value but also and above all “a view to its specifically pastoral function.”
Buranelli explained some of the contents of the museum, including the Chapel of the Magi, originally constructed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
“It was Cardinal Antonio Barberini who chose to dedicate the church to the Baby Jesus, adored by the Magi,” he said. “The Magi symbolically represent the kings of the pagan peoples who, guided by the star, were the first to go out to meet Christ and thus to gain the faith. The theme of the Epiphany is, then, extremely appropriate for a chapel intended to welcome the students of Propaganda Fide, who were destined to go out and transmit the good news.”
The work was later entrusted to Borromini under whose direction Bernini’s church was demolished and the Chapel of the Magi was rebuilt between 1662 and 1664.
The museum also exhibits a video presentation on the congregation’s origins, history and missionary activity, as well as the “Agenzia Fides” archive, containing more than 10,000 photographs, showing voyages in mission lands since the beginning of the 20th century.
Finally, “there is the Newman Chapel,” Buranelli explained. Following his conversion to Catholicism, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman “lived and studied in the College of Propaganda Fide, and there celebrated his first Mass.”
For his part, Ortona noted that this new project “enables not only the conservation, recovery and restoration of our artistic and cultural heritage, but also opens the way to new possibilities, making available all the hidden masterpieces … which are a measure of the greatness of Italian cultural and artistic history.”