Pope Francis inaugurates the new exhibition space in the Apostolic Library  (Vatican Media)

By Devin Watkins

Nov 8 2021

Pope Francis visits the Vatican Apostolic Library to inaugurate a new permanent exhibition area, and urges the Church to bear witness to the importance of beauty and culture.

The Apostolic Library is opening up to the public for the first time with a dedicated space for temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.

Pope Francis inaugurated the new space on Friday evening, which was financed by the heirs of the American entrepreneur and philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian.

Beauty touches the soul

In a speech to participants in the event, the Pope reflected on the theme of beauty and how the Church must bear witness to the importance of beauty and culture.

“Beauty,” he said, “is not a fleeting illusion of an appearance or of an ornament; rather, it is born from the root of goodness, truth, and justice, which are its synonyms.”

He added that the human person needs both bread and culture, “which touches the soul, and which brings the human being to our most profound dignity.”

Pope Francis also encouraged the Apostolic Library to preserve the past while translating Christian history into new languages.

Humanity on its way

During his visit, the Pope also spent some time admiring a site-specific exhibition by Italian artist Pietro Ruffo.

The exhibit goes under the title “Everyone: Humanity on its way”, recalls the Pope’s encyclical Fratelli tutti, and turns part of the space into “a lush tropical forest.”

It offers a journey through historic artefacts from the Library, including charts and a 6-metre-long 17th century map of the Nile made by Evliya Çelebi, concluding with utopic and allegorical maps created by Mr. Ruffo.

Journey through human history and dreams

The exhibit, explains Don Giacomo Cardinali who oversees the new space, explores “non-geographical cartography”.

“Throughout the history of humanity,” he says, “people have used the representative power of the map not only to describe the objectivity of the Earth, but also our own interiority, ideals, journeys, discoveries, and convictions.”

Mr. Ruffo, he adds, has put together an exhibit which will show the visitor “allegorical, theological, satirical, and sentimental maps, as well as maps of desire and of protest, of humanity’s dreams and desperation.”

In his speech, the Pope noted that humanity needs “new maps” in order to discover fraternity, social friendship, and the common good.

“A closed-off mindset is sterile and full of uncertainty,” said the Pope. “We need a new beauty which is not the usual reflection of the power of a select few but is a courageous mosaic of the diversity of all people.”

The temporary exhibition will be open to the public until 25 February 2022 every Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 to 6 PM. Tickets can be purchased at the website of the Apostolic Library.

Space for culture of encounter

According to Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, Archivist of the Apostolic Library, the new exhibition space is meant to promote a culture of encounter.

“One expects such a large library to help realize what Pope Francis has prophetically called a ‘culture of encounter’,” said the Cardinal. “It is a place where books encounter readers to trace new paths, where knowledge preserved as memory may encounter the questions that modern life asks of us, and where history encounters the present, opening up new perspectives not only on what we have been but also on what we can become.” -Vatican News