MEETING OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
WITH THE MEMBERS OF THE ITALIAN ECCLESIASTICAL MUSEUMS ASSOCIATION
Friday, 24 May 2019
Words with which the Holy Father greeted the members of the Italian Ecclesiastical Museums Association and delivered the written speech
I thank the Madam President for his words. Goodmorning everyone! Now it's my turn to make a speech, but I have, in the Paul VI Hall, more than 5,000 people to talk to. If I read the speech, they will suffer and I will not be able to greet you ... I would like to greet you one by one. So, I will deliver the speech to the President, then take the photo and begin to greet from the second row, because I greeted the first one.
Speech prepared by the Holy Father
Dear brothers and sisters,
I welcome you, starting with the President, whom I thank for the words with which she introduced our meeting; to the board of directors, to the Director of the national office for ecclesiastical cultural heritage and the cult building of the CEI and to all of you, dear operators and operators, who for various reasons lend your service, even voluntary, to museums in the dioceses religious institutes in Italy.
The history of your Association demonstrates the response to the need to coordinate and bring into dialogue the numerous and varied museums, large and small, that are present in Italy and, thanks to God, are constantly growing. In fact, ecclesiastical museums share the same mission: to document "visibly the path taken by the Church over the centuries in worship, catechesis, culture and charity" (Circular letter on the pastoral function of ecclesiastical museums, 2001).
In the Encyclical Laudato si 'I recalled that the historical, artistic and cultural heritage, together with the natural heritage, is equally threatened. It is part of the common identity of a place and a base for building a habitable city. We need to integrate the history, culture and architecture of a particular place, safeguarding its original identity, making the technical language dialogue with popular language. It is culture understood not only as the monuments of the past, but especially in its living, dynamic and participatory sense (see n. 143). For this reason it is essential that the museum maintains good relations with the territory in which it is inserted, collaborating with other similar institutions. It is about helping people to live together, to live well together, to work together. Ecclesiastical museums, by their nature, are called to foster encounter and dialogue in the territorial community. In this perspective it is normal to collaborate with museums of other religious communities. The works of art and the memory of different traditions and lifestyles speak of that humanity that makes us brothers and sisters.
The museum contributes to the good quality of life of the people, creating open spaces of relationship between people, places of closeness and opportunities to create communities. In large centers it is proposed as a cultural offer and representation of the history of that place. In small cities it supports the awareness of an identity that "makes one feel at home". Always and for everyone it helps to raise the eye to beauty. Urban spaces and people's lives need museums that allow them to enjoy this beauty as an expression of people's lives, their harmony with the environment, the encounter and mutual help (see Laudato si ’, 150).
I know well that for you this work is a passion: passion for culture, history, art, to know and to safeguard; passion for the people of your lands, to whose service you place your professionalism. And also passion for the Church and its mission. The museums in which you operate represent the face of the Church, its artistic and artisan fruitfulness, its vocation to communicate a message that is Good News. A message not for a select few, but for everyone. Everyone has the right to beautiful culture! Especially the poorest and the last, who must enjoy it as a gift from God. Your museums are ecclesial places and you participate in the pastoral care of your communities by presenting the beauty of human creative processes intended to express the Glory of God. For this you cooperate with the various diocesan offices, and also with parishes and schools.
I congratulate you for taking care of your training, to guarantee an up-to-date general preparation also at ecclesiastical study centers, as well as specific preparation in the various sectors of competence. I am thinking, for example, of the course held this year at the Pontifical Gregorian University. But also to the capillary work of information and communication of museums through the media, training days and contributions to specialized magazines. I also encourage the initiatives you carry out together with the archives and libraries, putting together your professionalism and your passion. Together we sometimes go more slowly, but surely we go further!
Many of you are dedicated to dialogue with contemporary artists, promoting meetings, creating exhibitions, training people in today's languages. It is a work of wisdom and openness, not always appreciated; it is a "frontier" work, indispensable for continuing the dialogue that the Church has always had with artists. Contemporary art incorporates the languages to which young people are especially accustomed. We cannot miss this expression and sensitivity in our museums, through the wise research of motivations, contents and relationships. New people can also approach sacred contemporary art, which can be an important place for comparison and dialogue with today's culture.
Dear friends, I extend to you the invitation I made to the whole Church in Italy to walk on the path traced with the Exhortation Evangelii gaudium. And I also think that the more recent Exhortation on the subject of sanctity - Gaudete et exsultate - concerns you in a particular way, because ecclesiastical museums are also a resonance of the holiness of the People of God. This perspective is fascinating! But first of all remind all of us that we are called to become saints, within the holy faithful People of God. Holiness is the truest beauty of the Church. A beauty that gives meaning and full value to your service to the Church and in the Church, which appreciates and thanks you. For this I bless you and encourage you. And you, too, please pray for me.