.- 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.”