Conservationists examine the “Salus Populi Romani” icon from the Basilica of St Mary Major (ANSA)

By Vatican News staff reporter

May 5 2022

Pope Francis sends a message to an international conference organized in Rome from 4-5 May by two Vatican Dicasteries, which explores the cataloging, management and innovation of the cultural heritage of religious communities.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Pontifical Council for Culture have come together to organize an international conference on the future of the cultural heritage of religious communities.

The event runs from 4-6 May on the theme “Charism and Creativity”.

The aim of the two-day conference is to strengthen networks and share best practices so as to improve the capacity of religious communities to protect and develop their heritage in a creative way.

In a message to the participants, Pope Francis noted that for some years now the Congregation for Consecrated Persons “has been concerned to guide the various institutes in the management of their respective ecclesiastical goods in the service of the humanum [human person] and the mission of the Church.”

This, he underlined, “has led to a series of conferences and documents of doctrinal depth and operational practicality in order to promote a more mature awareness of the management of these goods, which have an eminently ecclesial nature and must fulfil the purposes assigned to them by the Church.”

The Pope also noted that from the beginning of his Pontificate, he himself has drawn attention to the management of “ecclesiastical temporal goods” that have been entrusted to him.

This conference, said Pope Francis, which is the result of collaboration between two Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, “focuses attention on the ecclesial, historical, artistic and cultural value that many of these goods possess.”

Promoters of art and culture

But he also pointed out that the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, “have been and continue to be promoters of art and culture at the service of faith, custodians of a very significant part of the cultural heritage of the Church and of humanity: archives, books, artistic and liturgical works, the buildings themselves.”

The Pope explained that there is a need to identify, first of all, “specific elements for understanding these goods, in order to define their historical, spiritual, theological, ecclesiological, and juridical characteristics.”

Cataloging

It is then necessary, he continued, “to promote the cataloging of the assets in their entirety and variety (archives, books, movable and immovable art), as a primary act of knowledge and therefore of study, juridical protection, scientific preservation, and pastoral enhancement.”

He emphasized that cataloging is necessary for reasons of service to culture, management transparency, and prudence, considering the many natural and human dangers to which these fragile treasures are exposed.

“Computer technology today makes available tools that make it possible to collect an infinity of data and images and to make them public or confidential in a selective and extremely accurate manner,” he said.

Cultural assets

The Pope stressed that it was also important to address the issues involved in managing cultural assets, “both in terms of their economic sustainability and the contribution they can make to evangelization and the deepening of faith.”

Last but not least, Pope Francis highlighted the need to address the reuse of disused real estate.

He said it was a need that is all the more urgent today, “not only because of the numerical contraction of communities of consecrated life and the need to find the resources necessary to care for elderly and sick sisters and brothers, but also, in particular, the effects of the acceleration of legislative change and the necessary need for adaptation.”

The Pope underlined that the disposition of one’s heritage “is a particularly sensitive and complex issue, which can attract misleading interests on the part of unscrupulous individuals and be an occasion of scandal for the faithful: hence the need to act with great prudence and shrewdness and also to create institutional structures to accompany communities that are less well equipped.”

He noted that all issues were being explored during the conference “with the opportunity to identify not only the problems, but also some successful experiences and good practices that can be shared.”

He concluded his message by saying that it is “particularly through the use of real estate that the Church, and therefore all the communities that make it up, can bear good witness and announce the possibility of an economy of culture, solidarity and welcome.” -Vatican News