To mark the 50th anniversary of the Vatican Museums’ collection of contemporary religious art, Pope Francis will welcome nearly 200 artists from around the world to the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel on June 23, 2023. Writers, painters, sculptors, filmmakers, photographers, designers, and publishers from 33 different countries (literally from A to Z, including artists from Angola to Zimbabwe, but with a large majority of Italians) will meet the Argentinian Pope, following a tradition that dates to the pontificate of Paul VI in 1964.
It was Paul VI who, in 1973, inaugurated the Vatican Museums’ Collection of Modern and Contemporary Religious Art.
The collection includes 800 works by the greatest artists from the 19th century to the present day: Rodin, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Dix, Picasso, Dali and Bacon. As read in the Museum’s website, this collection emerged from “Paul VI’s desire to reinstate the dialogue between the Church and contemporary culture.”
Pope Francis is continuing Paul VI’s tradition: The last audience of this kind dates to 2009, during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. By so doing, the Pope highlights the work of these artists and underlines their role in promoting common values and social friendship.
The prefect of the dicastery for Culture and Education, the Portuguese poet Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, explains that this meeting (as Paul VI’s overall initiative) intends to “relaunch the experience of the Church as a friend of artists.”