.- This morning Pope Benedict XVI greeted a group of Americans on pilgrimage to celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the Vatican Museums. The Holy Father thanked the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums for their continued support and encouraged them in their service during an audience in the Clementine Hall.
The Pope thanked the association for its "continuing interest, which is motivated not only by a sense of stewardship for the incomparable cultural patrimony of the Vatican Museums, but also by a generous commitment to the Church's evangelizing mission."
He continued: "In every age Christians have sought to give expression to faith's vision of the beauty and order of God's creation, the nobility of our vocation as men and women made in His image and likeness, and the promise of a cosmos redeemed and transfigured by the grace of Christ. The artistic treasures which surround us are not simply impressive monuments of a distant past. Rather, for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who contemplate them year after year, they stand as a perennial witness to the Church's unchanging faith in the Triune God who, in the memorable phrase of St. Augustine, is Himself 'Beauty ever ancient, ever new'."
"May your support of the Vatican Museums," he concluded, "bear abundant spiritual fruits in your own lives and advance the Church's mission of bringing all people to the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, 'the image of the invisible God,' in Whose Eternal Spirit all creation is reconciled, restored and renewed."
Founded in 1983, The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums is an American association dedicated to financing the restoration and maintenance of the works of art in the Vatican Museums. Although some 15,000 visitors tour the Vatican museums each day, ticket sales cover only day-to-day costs and the museums are not supported directly by the Holy See. Many of the Patrons make the annual trip to the Vatican to see the fruits of their support.