Featuring ancient biblical artifacts from all over the world, the Verbum Domini II exhibition has officially opened at the Vatican, and is something organizers hope will inspire faith in those who come.
“It shows that the transmission of God’s word is real. It shows the amazing impact of the Bible,” the Museum of the Bible’s Chief Operating Officer Cary Summers told CNA on during a March 28 interview.
The Museum of the Bible, whose goal is to engage people with the Bible through traveling exhibits of biblical artifacts, has organized Verbum Domini II as a sequel to the original exhibit, Verbum Domini, that was debuted in the Vatican in 2012 and which contained rare biblical texts and artifacts representing the Christian, Orthodox and Jewish faith traditions.
Entitled "Verbum Domini II: God's Word Goes Out to the Nations," the exhibit officially opened to the public on April 2, and will be on display until June 22 and is free of charge. It is located in the Braccio di Carlo Magno in St. Peter’s Square, and is open Mon. through Sat.
Containing numerous pieces from the Green Collection, named after the family who founded U.S. arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby and which is one of the world’s largest private collections of rare biblical texts and artifacts, the exhibit also features elements from the Vatican Museums as well as several other institutional and private collections throughout the U.S. and Europe.
Referring to the motivation prompting a second exhibit, Summers explained that a key factor was the interest generated by the original Verbum Domini, which was inspired by Benedict XVI’s post-apostolic exhortation on the topic, and which drew viewers from over 84 countries in just the first two days of opening.
“This year, with all of the special events that are going on between now and June, the belief is that over 100,000 people will come through and see this exhibit,” Summers noted, highlighting that since entrance is free and open to the public, “many people who would not necessarily go into a church will come into this exhibit.”
In many cases, he observed, people get “get to see for the first time God’s Word,” also “in their own language, which is quite unique.”
Reflecting on how the exhibit is able to serve as a means of evangelizing those who are not necessarily Catholic or Christian, Summers recalled how the exhibit’s section on China displays “how God’s word went into China through the Jews, which is a very unusual story.”
He also recounted how a secular anthropologist affirmed that when the Bible went into Ecuador, which at the time was “one of the most violent” places on Earth, “the only thing that changed in that society was the introduction of the Bible, and it totally changed them, changed those people.”
“So God’s word is alive and well, and that’s what you see in this exhibit, is the power of it, and that’s what we hope to show. It’s not only the transmission of the Word, but the impact of the Word.”
Going on, Summers also drew attention to the fact that the exhibition has helped to unify different faith traditions, stating that the effect in this area has “been tremendous.”
Looking back to the trip that Benedict XVI made to Cuba in 2012, the museum operator explained that during a luncheon with bishops, the pontiff “said that maybe, the Bible exhibit that was at the Vatican, could be brought to Cuba, so that the people of Cuba could see God’s Word.”
“We’re a protestant group, but here’s the Pope himself” who suggested they bring it, Summers expressed, adding that “we did that, by the way.”
“There are so many more likeness than dislikeness between the faiths, certainly between Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism,” he continued, pointing out how there has been “tremendous cooperation” between the faiths throughout history.
“Now we all have the tendency to lock in on the stories of the conflicts that went on and so forth. And those do occur, but the overwhelming history shows the cooperation, and how God’s Word was used to unify people.”
Summers went on to describe a new Bible Museum which is being erected in Washington D.C., and which will be on permanent display, as well as a new curriculum on the Bible which they hope to introduce into public schools by 2015.
The initial curriculum that is currently being developed is intended for the ninth grade he observed, adding that “about one third of the curriculum is based on the history of the Bible, a third on the impact of the Bible, and a third on the historical events of the Bible.”
“We’ll do a beta test run this fall, and then roll it out to the larger community in the start of 2015” as an elective course which students can sign up for.
“Our goal would be hopefully that the school systems throughout the US would see the value in this, and the creativity of it, and the kids wanting to learn. So that’s the reason we’re spending a lot of time right now developing it,” he stated.
Returning to the exhibit, Summers expressed that their greatest hope is that “people will come” and that “people will come and take time to…look, and read or hear the exhibit.”
“We hope that they leave the exhibit saying, maybe there is a God. And for those who already know him, oh, maybe I need to learn more about him. And those who are already committed to a relationship with God himself, they would walk away inspired and encouraged even more in their faith.”
The Green family, whose private collection comprises a large section of the exhibit, is currently involved in a lawsuit against the U.S. government regarding the federal contraception mandate that would require it to provide contraception and other related products that would violate their religious convictions.
Having officially presented their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Green family is awaiting the final verdict, which is expected to be given later this summer.