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Holy See Press Office
Tuesday, 5 July 2011


I am delighted to offer my warm good wishes at the presentation of an exhibition, one that is indisputably very demanding and has been far from easy to conceive of or to organize, because the subject of the exhibition itself — the Vatican Secret Archives — is a vast, complex reality (it has been described as an ocean), that embraces first the whole of the Western world, then the New World and all the continents in which the Catholic Church has spread and put down roots.

The inherent complexity of the exhibition has perhaps been increased by the decision to hold it outside the Vatican, on the Capitoline Hill, which has had down the centuries, and indeed retains, such strong associations first with Imperial Rome and then with the Papal City.

It has been a question of harmonizing the forces of the Vatican Secret Archives which — in my pinion, if I may say so — are first-rate in the scientific field, and the forces of Roma Capitale, of the Capitoline Museums and therefore of the Sovraintendenza [office in charge] of the archives and museums of the Municipality of Rome.

But I think that — as always — in the inevitable difficulty of coordinating different views there is growth: since dialogue, an exchange of experiences and scientific discussion often improve the aims that are striven for with different thrusts.

I think this has also happened in the first phase of the exhibition’s planning and it will certainly continue to happen as its preparation proceeds.

It is clearly not my task to enter into the details of the exhibition. Yet I have the pleasure of praising a very high-level cultural initiative which looks beyond the stereotypes of both banks of the Tiber. The cultural context never fails to overcome commonplaces or polemics; a deeper examination of history (as I already had the opportunity to say at the Porta Pia celebrations in September 2010) makes people more sensitive in the search, first for the truth and then, for the common good.

I believe that in this exhibition the Vatican documents on display will suit the venue of the exhibition very well, the magnificent rooms of the Palazzo dei Conservatori — in a certain way also papal — a monument of civil history in the Rome of the Popes, as has been written.

I like to think that this joint project by the Vatican Archives, the Municipality of Rome, Roma Capitale and the Capitoline Museums will also have the merit of offering visitors to the exhibition, both Romans and non-Romans, a high level of civilization and culture of great personal benefit. I hope that those who will climb the broad stairway under the gaze of the Dioscuri on their way to the exhibition may come down them, after seeing so many valuable documentary heirlooms, imbued with an atmosphere of different ages and figures, aided by new media. Their minds, I believe, will be filled with admiration and gratitude, as much to the City of Rome, where Christ is Roman, as to the Catholic Church which has preserved, cared for, illustrated and made available such precious heirlooms of the Church and of the world of culture or, if you prefer, of the culture that the Church has spread throughout the world.

Thus there is nothing more appropriate than the title of the exhibition, “Lux in Arcana”, in which arcana should not be understood as arcana  imperi, namely, the secrets of government, but rather the hidden and vast library of the Archives, which by nature are jealous, watchful and protective of their treasure of history, maybe even to the point of mistrustfulness.

May the light therefore not be extinguished in the exhibition during the seven months planned for its duration, and may the arcana be illuminated and the visitor see the true treasures of the Vatican Secret Archives consisting of its innumerable papers, parchments, codices, manuscripts, deeds and documents which for four centuries now the Pontiffs of Rome have put at the service of historians and scholars.