On Sunday evening, Pope Benedict XVI slipped out of the Vatican to visit an art exhibit titled "Power and Grace. The Holy Patrons of Europe." Benedict XVI spent over 30 minutes "admiring the masterpieces," which offered a cross-section of the rapport between Church and government through the ages.
According to L'Osservatore Romano, the collection was displayed to "tell the story of the evolution of the relationship between faith and culture, holiness and power, Church and political community on the continent through the centuries."
Among the 120 pieces on exhibit were works from Leonardo, Van Eyck, El Greco and Caravaggio, which had been on loan to the Palace of Venice from major museums, such as the Louvre, since Oct. 8. Sunday was the show's final day.
The Holy Father had been invited to see the exhibit by the secretary of Italy's Council of Ministers, Gianni Letta, during the presentation of the book "The Travels of Benedict XVI in Italy" on Jan. 21.
Besides Letta, among those accompanying Pope Benedict on the the visit were his personal secretary Monsignor Georg Ganswein, members of the Memores Domini of the Papal Household, Italy's ambassador to the Holy See, organizers of the exhibit and its curator.
During the tour, the secretary of the Council of Ministers took the opportunity to verbalize the continued relationship between the Church and the government when he confirmed to the Pope that "will of the Italian government is to reaffirm the existence of the strength of the Christian roots of Europe."