China, Vatican use 'diplomacy of art' to foster relations


Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Relations with mainland China have long been an interest for the Holy See, and the Vatican Museums have now partnered with a Chinese cultural institute in hopes of building stronger ties with the country through art.

Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums, said Nov. 21 that in recent months “we have found ourselves, perhaps unexpectedly, in a shared awareness, which is the common task that is required today, even more so in the past, of a reality such as ours: to be able to speak in a universal language.”

This language, she said, “can only be that of beauty, which is a powerful appeal to harmony (and) is an extraordinary vehicle to always speak, in every latitude and longitude (and) without fear, without barriers.”

“I think beauty – in the broadest sense of the term – is needed by everyone,”she said, and voiced her believe that beauty is “the key to what the Vatican Museums calls 'the diplomacy of art,' which is certainly not our discovery...but which today is up to us to carry forward and creatively reinterpret in a constant confrontation with the global scene that is in front of us.”

Jatta said she believes these are the types of initiatives the museums ought to be pursuing, and is convinced “that the activities that we present today will bring an abundant harvest and will be a positive sign of hope which, looking around, we all need!”

Jatta spoke at the presentation of an initiative being launched by the Vatican Museums and the China Cultural Industrial Investment Fund, who are joining forces to promote two different exhibits which will be displayed simultaneously in the Vatican Museums and the Forbidden City palace complex in Beijing in the spring of 2018.

The exhibits mark the first time the Vatican Museums and a Chinese cultural institution have collaborated, and are the result of a joint-project between the two called “Beauty Unites Us,” aimed at creating various forms of cultural collaboration through art.

The title of the exhibit that will be shown in the Vatican is “Anima Mundi: Human, nature and harmony,” while the exhibit on display in China is titled “Beauty Unites Us: The trip in the marvelous harmony between the Chinese people and the Vatican museums.”

According to a press release on the exhibits, they are meant to witness to how art can be an instrument of dialogue and encounter between people from different cultures.

Among the pieces selected for the simultaneous exhibit are 12 paintings from Chinese artist Zhang Yan, who has donated several of his works to Pope Francis, including one that will become a permanent addition to the Vatican's “Anima Mundi” museum.

The Vatican will send 40 works to China for the exhibit, including 38 pieces of ancient Chinese art from the “Anima Mundi” museum, and a painting by Zhang Yan that he donated to the Pope. After its debut in Beijing, the exhibit will travel to other major cities in China.

Speaking alongside Jatta at the press conference on the exhibits were Msgr. Paolo Nicolini, Administrative Delegate of the Vatican Museums; Fr. Nicola Mapelli, Curator of the “Anima Mundi” museums; Zhu Jiancheng, Secretary General of the China Culture Investment Fund; and painter Zhang Yan.

In comments to journalists, Zhu thanked the Vatican for their “scrupulous organization and warm hospitality.”

He voiced his belief that the exhibits “will open a new chapter in the cultural exchange between the Chinese people and the Vatican, so that there is a new approach and understanding between two countries with a deep cultural tradition.”

As the first of its kind, the event holds significant meaning in terms of mutual understanding and trust between the two parties, he said, and, quoting the third century BC philosopher Han Fei, said, “relations between nations depend on the closeness of peoples, and the closeness of peoples depends on the communication of hearts.”

“We all know that this is also the thought of Pope Francis,” he said, adding that “cultural exchange precedes diplomacy.”

The exhibits, then, are an event that “crosses borders, time and unites cultures, and which will further strengthen the friendship between China and the Vatican in favor of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See.”

In his comments, Zhang said it was “a great honor” to be at the Vatican, where there is currently an increase in the “strong commitment for the development of civil relations between China and the Vatican.”

On behalf of the 1.38 million people of Chinese nationality, Zhang expressed his “sincere homage to the true friendship of Pope Francis,” and to all those who have contributed to the cultural exchanges between China and the Vatican.

The two simultaneous exhibits, he said, “represent the two ends of a bridge of civil dialogue – as a messenger of this cultural exchange, it is my pleasure and privilege to transmit the greeting and friendship of the Chinese people.”

The artist stressed that no matter what nation we come from or what creed we profess, “nothing in the world is irrelevant with us.”

“Even Chinese culture and the Vatican need communication and exchange, as with all cultures on the earth,” he said, adding that the “disinterested friendship” between China and Pope Francis and the idea that we are all one family “push men to rethink the relationship between humanity, life, society and nature.”

“The aesthetics of art,” he said, “will reveal in us the complete awareness of the environment, benevolence and tolerance. Dialogue among us is possible and inevitable because of our common sense of benevolence.”


Pope eager to meet Catholic, interreligious leaders in Bangladesh


Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 06:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Bangladesh ahead of his Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to the country, saying he is looking forward to meeting everyone, especially Catholics and other religious leaders, and to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“I want to meet the entire people,” he said. “In a special way, I cannot wait to meet the religious leaders in Ramna (Park).” Located in the central part of the capital city Dhaka, Ramna Park has a lake and trees and is considered one of the most beautiful areas of the city.

In the video, published Nov. 21, he also emphasized his wish to reaffirm the Catholic community of Bangladesh in “its faith and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and calls us to open our hearts to others, especially the poor and needy.”

Francis also said that in his visit he comes as a “minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to proclaim his message of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace.”

This is a time when we all, both believers and non-believers, are called to promote understanding and respect, and support each other as part of “one human family,” he said.    

The Pope's visit is the second leg of an apostolic trip to the countries of Burma – also known as Myanmar – and Bangladesh from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2.

He will arrive in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, from Burma on Nov. 30 in the afternoon. There will be a formal welcoming ceremony and then he will make a visit to the National Martyr's Memorial in Savar, about 22 miles north-west of the capital.

The National Martyr's Memorial in Savar is the national monument of Bangladesh. It stands in memory of all those who gave their lives in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which brought independence and separated Bangladesh from Pakistan.  

He will also visit the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, which honors the former Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman, who was assassinated alongside his family in August 1975.

From there he will meet with the President of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid. Afterward he will deliver a speech in a meeting with governmental authorities, leaders of the civil society and with the diplomatic corps.

On Dec. 1, Francis will celebrate Mass and a priestly ordination at Suhrawardy Udyan Park. In the afternoon he will visit the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina and the cathedral.

Later he will give speeches in meetings with the bishops of Bangladesh and with interreligious leaders and an ecumenical group for peace.

In the morning on Dec. 2 he will make a private visit to the Mother Teresa House in the Tejgaon district of Dhaka.

Afterward he will meet and address priests, religious, consecrated, seminarians and novices in the Church of the Holy Rosary, which was built in the late 1600s and is the oldest church building still-standing in Dhaka. The Pope will visit the church and the parish cemetery during his visit.

Francis' final encounter of the trip will be with youth at the Notre Dame College of Dhaka, where he will deliver a speech before leaving for the airport and the official leaving ceremony before departing for Rome. He is expected to land back in Rome at about 11p.m. local time.


What does the Church really teach about nuclear war?


Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican conference discussing “A World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” held Nov. 10-11, is the latest step in a long-term commitment from the Holy See to work for nuclear disarmament, which itself is considered by the Vatican to be a step toward the goal of integral disarmament.
 
The conference was held after 120 nations voted this July to pass the UN’s Comprehensive Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  The treaty prohibits signatories from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and prevents them from using these weapons. To date, only three countries have ratified the treaty.
 
The Holy See actively took part in the treaty’s negotiations, and is among the three nations that have ratified the treaty
 
The Holy See has a “Permanent Observer” status at the United Nations, although with “enhanced powers.” That means that the Holy See can take part in the negotiations of treaties, but does not usually have the right to vote.
 
For the July 7 vote on the nuclear treaty, the Holy See was accepted by the UN to participate in negotiations as a full member, and was permitted to vote on the matter before the adoption of the treaty. This was the first time the Holy See has been afforded such a status at the UN, which Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s “foreign minister,” described as a milestone during the treaties ratification ceremony Sep. 20.
 
This diplomatic initiative shows the strength of the Holy See’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.
 
In fact, the Holy See has understood for decades the perilous potential of nuclear weaponry.
 
During the Second World War, Pius XII understood that new scientific developments could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction.
 
Pope Pius XII’s concerns were expressed in three different speeches delivered at the Pontifical Academy for Sciences between 1941 and 1948.
 
Talking on Nov. 30, 1941, Pius XII said in the hands of men, science can be a double edged weapon, able to heal and kill at the same time. The Pope also said that he was following “the incredible adventure of the men committed to research on nuclear energy and nuclear transformation” thanks to Max Planck, Nobel Prize Laureate in 1918, who served as member of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences.
 
Pope Pius XII warned about nuclear danger again, in a meeting with members of the Pontifical Academy that took place Feb. 21, 1943. On that occasion, the Pope warned that because of the development of nuclear weapons, “there could be a dangerous catastrophe for our planet as a whole.”
 
Finally, in a speech delivered to the Pontifical Academy for Science on Feb. 8, 1948, the Pope talked about the atomic bomb as one of the “most horrible weapons the human mind has ever conceived,” and asked: “What disaster should the humanity expect from a future conflict, if stopping or slowing the use of always more and more surprising scientific inventions would be proven impossible? We should distrust any science whose main goal is not love.”
 
Like Pius XII, St. John XXIII urged the need for an “integral disarmament” in his encyclical Pacem In Terris, and the Second Vatican Council’s Apostolic Constitution Gaudium et Spes stressed that “power of weapons does not legitimate their military and political use.”
 
Speaking at the UNESCO June 2, 1980, Pope St. John Paul II explicitly mentioned the “nuclear threat” on the world that could lead to “the destruction of fruits of culture, products of the civilization built in centuries by generation of men who believed in the primacy of the spirit and did not spare efforts nor fatigues.”
 
John Paul II noted the “fragile balance” of the world, caused by geopolitical reasons, economic problems and political misunderstandings along with wounded national prides. But, he said, this balance can be destroyed at any moment, following “a mistake in judging, informing, interpreting.”
 
He then asked: “Can we still be certain that breaking the balance would not lead to war and to a war that would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons?”
 
Benedict XVI also confronted the issue many times. It is especially noteworthy to recall what Benedict said in his May 31, 2009 Pentecost homily.
 
Benedict XVI stressed that “man does not want to be in the image of God any longer, but only in his own image: he declares himself autonomous, free.”
 
A man in such an “unauthentic relation” with God can become dangerous, and “can revolt against life and humanity,” as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies showed, the Pope said.
 
Pope Francis has warned many times about the risks of the nuclear proliferation. In a message sent to the UN Conference for the Negotiation of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Pope Francis stressed that “International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power.”
 
“We need – he added - to go beyond nuclear deterrence: the international community is called upon to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security”.
 
The Holy See has followed a clear path on nuclear disarmament, which it continued with this month’s conference. The words of Pope Francis at the conference carry the legacy and tradition of the Church’s teachings on nuclear weaponry and its danger.

We can not “fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices,” the Pope said.  

“If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.  For they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race.  International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms.  Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.  They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family."

 

 

Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this report.