VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican Museums provide an “extraordinary opportunity for evangelization,” Benedict XVI said on the occasion of the institution’s 500th anniversary.
The Pope said this Saturday during an audience with the participants of an international congress which closed a year of events commemorating the long history of the Vatican Museums.
The Holy Father described them as “the greatest museum institutions in the entire world.”
Benedict XVI congratulated those participating in the symposium to reflect on the identity and role of the museums today, and their prospects for the future.
The congress identified “elements that make it possible to better delineate the function, which we could describe as ‘educational,’ of museums in the context of the present globalized society,” said the Pontiff.
The Pope said that “the Church has always supported and promoted the world of art, considering its language as a privileged vehicle of human and spiritual progress.”
The Vatican Museums have the following inscription placed on the main door: “Ad augendum Urbis splendorem et asserendam religionis veritatem” (To promote the splendor of the city of Rome and affirm the truth of the Christian religion).
Benedict XVI continued: “The development in time of the Vatican Museums shows that these ends have always been clearly present in the Popes’ intentions.”
The Vatican Museums “can represent an extraordinary opportunity of evangelization because, through the different works exhibited, they offer visitors an eloquent testimony of the continuous intertwining that exists between the divine and human in life and in the history of nations,” added the Pope.
The Holy Father said: “The enormous number of people that visit them every day shows the growing interest in these masterpieces of art and these historical testimonies, which are a marvelous synthesis of the Gospel and culture.”
The Pontiff said that the museums are no longer “reserved for artists, specialists and men of culture alone, in our days it is increasingly everyone’s home, thus responding to a widespread formative need of society.”
Benedict XVI added that the institutions belong as well to the youth, “which can recognize in the museums the roots of their history and culture.”
The Pope said that “every opportunity to foster integration and encounter between individuals and nations is, undoubtedly, something that should be stimulated.”
“In such perspective, also museums — though keeping in mind the changed social conditions — can become places of artistic mediation, links of relationship between the past, the present and the future, crossroads of men and women of several continents, in addition to sources of research and forges of cultural and spiritual enrichment,” the Holy Father said.
The Pontiff said: “The museums will be able to spread the culture of peace if, while retaining their nature of temples of the historical memory, they are also places of dialogue and friendship among all.”