Pope Francis paid a visit Friday to the renovated wing of the Vatican Ethnological Museum, which he praised for being “a place where everyone can feel represented.”
“Beauty unites us. It invites us to live human brotherhood, countering the culture of resentment, racism, nationalism, which is always lurking,” Pope Francis said at the “Anima Mundi” museum Oct. 18.
“I think the Vatican Museums are increasingly called to become a living home, inhabited and open to everyone, with the doors wide open to the people of the whole world ... a place where everyone can feel represented,” the pope said.
The Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum contains 80,000 artistic works and objects from non-European cultures throughout history ranging from prehistoric artifacts to current gifts given to the pope. Among its displays are works of art from Islamic civilizations and the indigenous peoples of America.
“All peoples are here, in the shadow of the dome of St. Peter, close to the heart of the Church and of the pope,” Pope Francis said.
“Whoever enters here should feel that in this house there is also room for him, for his people, his tradition, his culture: the European as the Indian, the Chinese as the native of the Amazon or Congolese forest, of the Alaskan or the Australian deserts or the Pacific islands.”
The pope’s visit to the Vatican Ethnological Museum coincided with its exhibition dedicated to the Amazon: “Mater Amazonia - The deep breath of the world.”
The Amazon exhibit -- on display in the Vatican museum until January 2020 -- includes portraits and names of some of the Catholic missionaries who lived among the Amazonian peoples, as well as objects from everyday life in the rainforest.
Pope Francis said that in the museum one should feel that God’s art has the same value and is treated and preserved with the same passion that is reserved for Renaissance masterpieces or for Greek and Roman sculptures.
“Since works of art are the expression of the spirit of peoples … one must always look at each culture, at the other, with an open mind and with benevolence,” he said.
Pope Pius XI first organized an exhibition to display “the artistic and spiritual traditions of all peoples” in 1925. After the temporary exhibition drew over one million visitors, the pope decided to make it a permanent exhibit in the Lateran Palace. The collection was transferred to the Vatican Museums in the 1970s as the Missionary Ethnological Museum.
“May this Ethnological Museum preserve its specific identity over time and remind everyone of the value of harmony and peace between peoples and nations. And may the art gathered here make the voice of God resonate in those who visit this collection,” Pope Francis said.