Vatican City, Jul 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The decision to make priests available inside the Vatican Museums to offer spiritual comfort to visitors has been generally welcomed by tourists in Rome.
“I think it’s a good idea because they could answer a lot of questions if anybody is inspired and has questions about their faith,” 25-year-old Molly Sullens from San Diego told CNA as she exited an afternoon tour of the museums on July 27.
“I think it’s a great idea, too,” said her boyfriend 27-year-old Nick Fandel, also from San Diego, who found the Sistine Chapel particularly “awe inspiring.”
“I mean if you want to talk to somebody rather than just see the art, you should definitely have that option.”
The new initiative will begin at the start of August when two priests will be available for any tourists who wish to chat.
“There is nothing institutional or pretentious about the initiative,” said Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, Secretary General of the Governorate of Vatican City State, in the July 26 edition of L’Osservatore Romano newspaper.
“The priests will simply be on hand with a table and two chairs at two strategic points on the normal itinerary visitors follow, and anyone who wishes may approach them to exchange a few words or to reflect together,” Bishop Sciacca said.
In 2011, the Vatican Museums broke its own attendance records with just over 5 million people entering its doors. That makes them one of the most visited museums in Europe, on a par with the British Museum in London, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Prado in Madrid.
Bishop Sciacca reaffirmed that the Vatican Museums “welcome everyone, whatever their beliefs or origins,” while at the same time “reminding each of them -- through a statue, a piece of gold, a painting or a fresco -- of the goal for which we were created.”
This is because, he said, the museums “are not afraid to show that they, in fact, represent a way through which the good news of God-made-man can be announced to the world.”
The museums were founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century. They are now home to some of the most renowned classical sculptures and Renaissance art in the world.
Among the most popular exhibits for visitors are the four “Raphael Rooms,” painted by the Italian Renaissance artist and his workshop, and the Sistine Chapel created by Michelangelo.
Bishop Sciacca described the Vatican Museums as “a precious casket in which, thanks to their wisdom and love of ‘beauty,’ the Roman Pontiffs have gathered together what are perhaps the most exalted works that human genius has produced over the course of the centuries.”
London, England, Jul 28, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster reminded Olympians this afternoon that the deepest meaning of sporting achievement is giving “glory to their maker.”
“We will see many fine sports men and women use their bodies, their minds and their spirits in the quest for glory. But the message of the Gospel goes deeper. It reminds us, vividly, that our bodies are for the glory of God,” Archbishop Nichols said at a July 28 Mass to give thanks for the London Olympics.
“Indeed our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. This does not detract from that physical achievement of sport, with its beauty, symmetry, harnessing of speed, finesse and power. Rather it enhances those achievements and gives them their deepest purpose – that of giving glory to their Maker,” he said.
The special Mass at London’s Westminster Cathedral came less than 24 hours after the official opening of the 30th Olympiad in the city’s east end. During the next two weeks the English capital will play host to over 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries.
Archbishop Nichols praised the Olympic Games for holding up “high ideals of fairness in competition, of friendship between adversaries, of individual achievement and national pride.” He hoped these ideals would be achieved during the London event, despite the “huge pressures of world attention, corporate investment and political prestige.”
Over the past months the Catholic Church in England & Wales has launched various initiatives related to the Olympic Games.
The 100 Days for Peace project campaigned for an “Olympic truce” between warring nations for the duration of the games. It also encouraged schoolchildren “to train for peace,” just as athletes train for events.
“The classic virtues of temperance, fortitude, justice and courage were explored as the foundation of true human achievement, whether in citizenship or sport,” Archbishop Nichols said of the project.
Meanwhile, the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, which was launched by Pope Benedict XVI during his 2010 visit to London, has been attempting to “build spiritual character through excellence in sporting skills and fitness.”
Archbishop Nichols said this would be the key project “through which our Catholic community can help our society build a legacy worthy of these Games.”
He concluded by asking God to bless all those participating and attending the Olympic Games. “Bless all who take part in them. Keep us safe. Bless alike our joys and our disappointments,” he said.
“Teach us, in these weeks ahead, to thank you for all your gifts and to give a generous welcome to all, especially those most in need. Then, indeed, we know you, the one true God, in the glory of all your creation.”