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Circular Letter




Your Eminence (Excellency),

After having addressed the topics of libraries and archives (see Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Circular Letter Church Libraries in the Mission of the Church, March 19, 1994, Prot. N. 179/91/35 [Enchiridion Vaticanum 14/610-649]; ibid, Circular Letter The Pastoral Function of Church Archives, February 2, 1997, Prot. N. 274/92/118 [pamphlet, Vatican City 1997]) as well as the urgent task of taking inventory and cataloguing the art-historical heritage of the Church (see Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Circular Letter The Inventory and Cataloguing of the Cultural Heritage of the Church:  A Necessary and Urgent Task, December 8, 1999, Prot. N. 140/97/162 [pamphlet, Vatican City, 1999]), the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church now wants to focus its attention on Church museums that have the function of the material preservation, juridical protection and integration into pastoral life of the important art-historical patrimony that is no longer in regular use.

Appeal of cultural treasures in promoting the new evangelization

With this new document, the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church wishes to help reinforce the activity of the Church, in dealing with her cultural heritage in the hope of fostering a new humanism as part of the new evangelization. In fact, the Pontifical Commission has the principal task of leading God's people, and especially those working with the Church's cultural heritage (laity and clergy), to press for the integration of the art-historical patrimony of the Church in the pastoral field.

Variety of artistic forms shows constant creation of Christian cultures

Christianity is characterized by the announcement of the Gospel in the "hic et nunc" (here and now) of every generation, and by faithfulness to the Tradition. The Church throughout her history "has made use of different cultures in order to spread and explain the Christian message" (Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, December 7, 1965, n. 58.

Such a Conciliar magisterium, expressed also in other passages, [Ad Gentes, n. 21] has also been referred to by Pope John Paul II in the Encyclical Letter Slavorum Apostoli, June 2, 1985, n. 21 [Enchiridion Vaticanum 2/1554-1614]). Thus, "faith tends by its nature to express itself in artistic forms and historical witness that have an intrinsic evangelizing force and cultural valence before which the Church is called to pay her maximum attention" (John Paul II, Motu Proprio Inde a Pontificatus Nostri initio, March 25, 1993, Proemio [L'Osservatore Romano, May 5, 1993, pp. 1, 5]). For this reason, and especially in countries enriched by ancient traditions of evangelization, but also in those with a more recent tradition, an abundant cultural patrimony has accumulated that has great value and supports the mission of the Church.

In this sense, even a Church museum, with all the actitivites that go with it, has a close connection with the whole mission of the Church in the given place where it is set up, since it documents visibly the path followed by the Church down through the centuries in her worship, catechesis, culture and charity. Thus, a Church museum is a place that documents not only human genius, but also offers an insight into the cultural and religious life in order to guarantee its existence at the present time. It cannot be set apart in an "absolute" sense from other pastoral activities, but should be integrated into the totality of the life of the Church and into the art historical patrimony of the national culture.

Thus, it has to be integrated into the range of pastoral activities, and reflect the total life of the Church by making use of the art-historical patrimony.

Museums are structures that bring to light the variety of Christian cultural contributions

In the Christian mentality, Church museums belong entirely with those structures that serve to present the cultural patrimony "placed at the service of the mission of the Church" (The "cultural assets" include "first of all the patrimony of painting, sculpture, architecture, mosaics and music, put at the service of the mission of the Church. To these we should then add the wealth of books contained in ecclesiastical libraries and the historical documents preserved in the archives of the ecclesial communities. Finally, the concept covers the literary, theatrical and cinematographic works produced by the mass media". John Paul II, Address to the participants at the First Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, October 12, 1995, n. 43 [L'Osservatore Romano, October 13, 1995, p. 5]). Thus, they should be organized in a way that allows them to communicate the sacred, the beautiful, the old and the new. They are an integral part of the cultural manifestations and the pastoral action of the Church.

Place to store and protect what is no longer in use

The art-historical patrimony not in regular use in a parish, put aside or left unprotected, can be adequately protected and presented in Church museums. In fact, one should work towards establishing an interaction between the treasures in use and those not in use, in order to guarantee a retrospective vision, as well as a real functional role for these treasures for the advantage of the community in a given country. This means coordinating museums, monuments, furnishings, sacred representations, popular devotional forms of piety, archives, libraries, collections and all other local customs and traditions. In the case of a sometimes disintegrating culture, initiatives should be launched that aim at rediscovering what belongs culturally and spiritually to the community, not just in the tourist sector, but in an overall human way. It would allow one to rediscover the reason for the original creation of the art-historical patrimony in order to present it as a cultural treasure.

Museum centre for bringing together culture and evangelization

In this vision, the ecclesiastical museum can become an important centre that can help people to become acquainted with the past and discover the present in its best and often hidden aspects.

Moreover, it is also the place to coordinate the activities of preserving the past, of educating the human person and of evangelizing our contemporaries in a given area. Its organization must therefore reflect the dynamic social, political, and cultural realities of the place and the pastoral plans that have been devised.

Community has to support work of museum

When we admit that museum structures are important for the Church, then safeguarding the cultural assets is a task that belongs first and foremost to the Christian community. The community has to understand the importance of its past, nourish a sense of belonging to the world in which it lives, and grasp the pastoral usefulness of its artistic patrimony. This involves its developing a critical conscience, in order to present the art-historical patrimony produced by the waves of civilization that travelled through time, aware that the Church as an enlightened patron, is also a careful custodian of ancient remnants.

It is therefore evident that the organization of Church museums requires an ecclesiological foundation, a theological perspective, a spiritual dimension, because only in this way can these institutions be integrated within pastoral planning. The Circular Letter primarily offers general and practical reflections on the importance and the role of Church museums in the framework of social and ecclesial life. In fact, the originality and effectiveness of Church museums depends on their becoming an integral part of the pastoral life of the Church.


The Conservation of the Art-Historical Patrimony of the Church

1.1. The Importance of the Art-Historical Patrimony

The cultural treasures of the Church make up the specific patrimony of the Christian community. At the same time, as a result of the universal dimension of the Christian message, they belong to the whole of humanity. Their end is the same as the Church's mission in its twofold work of Christian evangelization and promoting the human being. Their value lies in highlighting the activity of inculturating the faith.

In fact, since cultural goods are an expression of historical memory, they allow one to discover the path of faith as portrayed by the works of different generations. Their artistic value reveals the creative capacity of artists, craftsmen and local guild traditions that have been able to imprint on what is visible their religious experience and the devotion of the Christian community. On account of their value as culture, they hand on to society today the history of individuals and communities of human and Christian wisdom in a given area and at a specific time. Their liturgical significance means they were made for divine worship. Their usefulness for all the faithful means that they allow each individual to enjoy them as a legitimate user without becoming an exclusive owner.

The value that the Church places on her cultural goods explains "the will on the part of the community of faithful, and in particular ecclesiastical institutions, to gather since the apostolic period the testimonies of faith and nourish their memory, express the uniqueness and continuity of the Church that lives out these last periods of history" (Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Circular Letter The Pastoral Function of Church Archives, see n. 1.1.). Thus, the Church considers as crucial the handing down of her own patrimony of cultural goods. They represent, in fact, an essential link in the chain of Tradition; they are the visible memory of evangelization; they become a pastoral instrument. It follows therefore the effort "to restore, preserve, catalogue, and protect" them (John Paul II, Address of October 12, 1995, see n. 4) in order to assure that they are treasured, "thus promoting a greater knowledge and suitable use in catechesis and in the liturgy" (ibid.).

In the cultural patrimony of the Church, we find the immense art-historical patrimony disseminated around the world. It owes its identity to the use by the Church it was created for and this end should not be forgotten. For this reason the Church needs to work on strategies designed to appreciate and present the art-historical patrimony in all its richness. Even when pieces have fallen into disuse, for example, because of liturgical reform, or because they are too old to be used, the pieces should be placed among the goods in use in order to show the interest of the Church in expressing in a variety of styles her catechesis, worship, culture and charity.

The Church, therefore, must avoid the risk of the abandonment, dispersion, and secularization of these artefacts to other museums (state, civil, and private) by instituting, when necessary, her own "museum deposits" which can guarantee their custody and use within a Church environment. Even artefacts of minor artistic value witness to the exertion of the community that produced them and can help identify the level of life in the community. Therefore, for all of these one should provide an adequate form of "museum deposit". In any case, it is necessary that works kept in museums and deposits that belong to the Church be in direct contact with works still used by Church institutions.

1.2. An Approach towards the Safekeeping of Art-Historical Patrimony

One can interpret the conservation of the patrimony of cultural memory in cultures in different ways. In the West and its cultures, for example, the memory of the past is nourished by conserving artefacts that are obsolete but rich in their art-historical importance or simply for their value as memories. In other cultures, however, the cultivation of memory takes place through the oral tradition of past events because often for climatic reasons the conservation of artefacts is difficult. Finally, in other situations, safekeeping implies remaking the artefacts while respecting the materials and stylistic models. Among all populations, however, the living sense of memory is considered a fundamental value that must be cultivated with great care.

In countries with an older Christian tradition, the art-historical patrimony that has been enriched throughout the centuries with new forms of interpretation, and has been for entire generations a privileged instrument of catechesis and worship has more recently, and at times, acquired an entirely aesthetic value due to secularization. It is wise, therefore, that in these cases the particular churches recall the contextual importance of art-historical goods by means of fitting strategies, so that the artefact with an aesthetic value may not be totally detached from its pastoral function or its historical, social, environmental, and devotional context which it it expressed and witnessed to.

A Church museum is rooted in a specific territory, it is directly connected to the action of the Church and it is the visible witness of its historic memory. It cannot be reduced simply to "the collection of antiquities and curiosities", as Paolo Giovio and Alberto Lollio intended back in the Renaissance, but it must conserve in order to present works of art and objects of a religious nature.

A Church museum is neither a Mouseion, nor the "temple of the Muses" in the etymological sense of the term, recalling the structure founded by Tolomeus Sotere of Alexandria of Egypt; but it is always the building that cares for the art-historical patrimony of the Church. In fact, even if many artefacts no longer carry out a specific Church function, they continue to transmit a message that the Christian communities, living in past epochs, have wanted to hand on to posterity. As a result, one must develop methods to ensure the adequate presentation and conservation of the art-historical patrimony in an ecclesial sense. Such methods should include the following tasks: 

- safekeeping promoted by specific institutions on diocesan and national levels;

- the knowledge of the principal aim and history, besides its major characteristics through the means of inventories and catalogues (See Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, Circular Letter Opera Artis de cura patrimonii historico-artistici Ecclesiae, ad Praesides Conferentiarum Episcopalium, April 11, 1971; AAS 63 [1971] p. 315-317; Codex Iuris Canonici [1983] can. 1283 n. 2-3; Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Circular Letter, The Inventory and Cataloguing of the Cultural Heritage of the Church, a Necessary and Urgent Task, see...);

- a contextual approach to the works appreciating their original social, ecclesial, devotional realities;

- the consideration of the works of the past in reference to cultural and ecclesial experience today;

- the preservation and eventual use of works of the past in a pastoral dimension (Secretary of State, Circular Letter to the Bishops of Italy on the preservation, custody and use of Church archives and libraries, April 15, 1923, Prot. N. 16605 [M. Vismara Missiroli, Codice dei Beni Culturali di interesse religioso. I. Normativa Canonica, Milano 1993, p. 188-196]. Ibid., Circular Letter to the Bishops of Italy, September 1, 1924, Prot. N. 34215 [ibid., p. 196-198]).

In order to fulfill these tasks, it would be useful to establish Church museums that, while making reference to the historical and artistic patrimony of a determined territory, also assume the role of centres of cultural education. It also becomes important to coordinate the different offices in charge of the sector of cultural heritage within the Church. Whenever possible one should create ways to ensure collaboration between Church offices and related public offices in order to plan common projects.

1.3. Some Historical Facts regarding the Conservation of Art-Historical Patrimony

We are all aware of the effort by the Church throughout her history to take care of her own historical and artistic patrimony. This is shown by the regulations of Supreme Pontiffs, Ecumenical Councils, local Synods and individual Bishops. Such care has been expressed through the patronage of works of art destined primarily for worship as well as for the decoration of holy places, and through their protection and conservation. (An extensive summary of the principal interventions of the Magisterium in favour of the cultural heritage of the Church since antiquity is offered in chapter 1 of the recent Circular Letter issued by this Pontifical Commission, The Inventory and Cataloguing of the Cultural Heritage of the Church).

For the conservation of precious objects - first among which liturgical furnishings and relics with their respective reliquaries - the so-called "treasuries" annexed to cathedrals or other important places of worship (as, for example, shrines) were established already back in antiquity, often in a room next to the sacristy or in specific closets or cabinets. Such collections had the principal function of serving as a deposit for objects of particular value used in worship and particularly on occasion of the most solemn ceremonies. In addition, these objects possessed an exhibitional value, especially in the case of reliquaries. Finally they could also serve the function of a gold reserve in case of necessity. The most splendid example is the "Papal Sacristy" in the Vatican Basilica.

Nevertheless, one could consider medieval "treasuries" true collections composed of objects removed (either temporarily or definitely) from the sector of useful activities and subject to a particular institutional control. The artefacts that made up collections were put on display for public admiration in appropriate places and times. The difference between such collections and the private ones of antiquity consisted in the fact that the "treasuries" were not the work of an individual, but of institutions, and therefore served a public function. Among the oldest treasuries in Europe, we can recall those of the Abbey of Saint Denis in France and the treasure of the Cathedral of Monza in Italy both dating back to the 6th century. Among the most famous medieval treasures we can mention those in Italy pertaining to:  the Sancta Sanctorum in Rome, the Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice, and Saint Ambrose in Milan; in France those pertaining to:  the Sanctuary of Saint Foy at Conques, the Cathedral of Verdun in Metz; in Germany those pertaining to:  the Cathedral of Cologne, those in Aachen and Regensburg; in Spain, for example, the one in the Holy Chamber of Oviedo (Spain); and in Ireland:  the renowned one in the Cathedral of Clonmacnoise. Many of these treasuries were accompanied by inventories and catalogues written in the course of the centuries.

Private collections of ancient objects, whether precious or simply curious, are documented already from the 14th century onwards and was carried out privately also by members of the Church.

Among the major collections of classical works that were gathered as a result of the new regard that emerged in the 15th century for antiquity, one should recall those promoted by popes and cardinals. In this context, the collection on the Campidoglio in Rome created by will of Pope Sixtus IV in 1471 remains fundamental in the history of museology. It contained ancient bronze statues with the intention of giving back to the Roman people memories that belonged to them. It also represented the first public destination of artworks by will of a sovereign personality, a concept that would prevail universally by the end of the 1700's and would lead to the opening of the Capitoline Museum and the Vatican Museums in Rome besides other great national museums in the great capitals of Europe.

During the post-Tridentine period when the role of the Church in the cultural milieu was considerable, to cite one example, Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, conceived his collection of paintings as a place for conservation, and at the same time, as a didactic space open to a select public. For this reason he put beside it the Ambrosian Library in 1609 and in 1618 the Academy of painting, sculpture, and architecture. In 1625 he published a catalogue entitled Musaeon but written in a highly illustrative way. Through such initiatives, that reflect models of patronage typical of the aristocracy of the time, one can easily see the integration between Library - Museum - School in order to achieve a unified educational and cultural plan.

Between the 1500's and 1600's new types of museums gradually appear with primarily pedagogical and educational aims. These were often set up within a Church setting, for example, scientific museums, that were located in seminaries, colleges and other institutions of formation often connected with the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.

In more recent times besides "treasuries", Cathedral Museums and Museums of the Opera (the Cathedral workshop) were built with the aim of protecting and putting on display works of art and objects of worship (or of other nature) that are generally no longer in use and that were created for the Cathedrals themselves or for their sacristies. By the end of the 1800's and the beginning of the 1900's diocesan museums began to appear that were similar to the ones we mentioned, but with materials also from other churches in the city or in the diocese. These materials were then concentrated in one place in order to save them from abandonment or dispersion. Museums of religious congregations arose with similar aims.

1.4. Legislative Measures issued by the Church regarding Church Museums

The legislation of the Papal States of the first half of the 1800's, regarding the safeguarding and conservation of antiquities and works of art, confirmed the orders given earlier by the Pontiffs, beginning with the 15th century that were intended to limit the destruction of ancient Roman monuments and the dispersion of classical works. The legislation contains modern and innovative ideas regarding museums. The famous Chirograph (hand written letter) of Pius VII of 1 October 1802, proclaims that state institutions, established for this purpose, must "see that the Monuments, and beautiful works of Antiquity ... be conserved as real prototypes, and as examples of the Beautiful, in a religious manner and for public instruction and may be further increased with the discovery of other rare pieces...". (Pius VII, Chirografo sulla conservazione dei monumenti e sulla produzione di belle arti, October 1, 1802, contained in the Edict of the Camerlengo of S.R.C. Cardinal Doria Pamphilj [A. Emiliani, Leggi bandi e provvedimenti per la tutela dei beni artistici e culturali negli antichi stati italiani, 1571-1860, Bologna 1978, p. 110-125]). In fact, one can show that at the basis of the principle of inalienability and immovability of archeological finds from the confines of the State and of a large part of other artworks, lies the concept of their public use aimed at education. Consequently, the decision to use public funds is taken - even during times of financial restrictions - for "the acquisition of more interesting things to place in our Museums; sure that the expenditures directed to promote the Liberal Arts are largely compensated by the immense advantages that are drawn by the State and the inhabitants" (ibid., n. 10. The principles contained in the Chirograph are at the basis of the famous Edict of Cardinal Carmerlengo Bartolomeo Pacca, regarding antiquities and excavations, April 7, 1820 [A. Emiliani, Leggi, bandi e provvedimenti, ibid, pp. 130-145], that, with his regulations regarding excavations, conservation and circulation of ancient and modern artworks, is considered one of the foundations for modern legislation in regards to cultural heritage).

The instructions issued by the Holy See in the 20th century on the subject of museums are addressed to the Bishops of Italy but, by analogy, it is possible to consider them valid for the universal Church. Generally they do not address museums exclusively, but the museums are inserted into a broader context that includes archives, libraries and sacred art as a whole according to a perspective that considers the cultural goods also according to their pastoral dimension. One should recall here the Circular Letter of the Secretary of State dated 15 April 1923 that suggests "founding, where it still does not exist, and organizing properly a Diocesan Museum in the Bishop's House or in the Cathedral complex" (Secretary of State, Circular Letter to Bishops of Italy on the preservation, custody and use of Church archives and libraries, April 15, 1923). One should also recall the Letter sent by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri of 1 September 1924. This letter, while notifying Italian Bishops that the Pontifical Central Commission for Sacred Art in Italy has been introduced, recommends the establishment of a diocesan or regional Commission in every diocese and the establishment of Diocesan Museums..." (Secretary of State, Circular Letter to Bishops of Italy, September 1, 1924). Similar guidelines are issued by the Congregation of the Council in the Regulations of May 24, 1939 (Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, Regulations for the custody and conservation of historical and artistic sacred objects in Italy, May 24, 1939 [AAS 31 {1939} p. 266-268]) where the conservation of works otherwise destined for dispersion is the supreme aim of such institutions. The Pontifical Central Commission just mentioned, developed during those same years, in collaboration with state institutions, a series of auxiliary tools destined for Italian dioceses to facilitate the establishment and management of diocesan museums (Pontifical Central Commission for Sacred Art in Italy, Schema di regolamento per i Musei diocesani [G. Fallani, Tutela e conservazione del patrimonio storico e artistico della Chiesa in Italia, Brescia 1974, p. 225-229]; ibid., Schema di verbale di deposito in Musei statali [ibid., p. 229-230]; ibid., Schema di verbale di deposito in Musei non statali [ibid., p. 230-232]; ibid., Norme relative al prestito di opere d'arte di proprietá di Enti ecclesiastici [ibid., p. 232-235]).

The Circular Letter issued by the Congregation of the Clergy to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of 11 April 1971, has an effective universal value since it recommends the conservation of those "works of art and treasures" no longer used due to liturgical reform in diocesan or inter-diocesan museums (Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, Circular Letter Opera Artis, ibid., n. 6).

However, neither the Code of Canon Law of 1917 nor the Code of 1983, and not even the Canons of the Oriental Churches mention museums, even if clear references are made regarding the protection and preservation of the artistic and historical patrimony (Codex Iuris Canonici [1983] {CIC}, can. 638 3, 1269, 1270, 1292, 1377 [donations, acquisitions and alienations]; can. 1189 [restoration of images]; can. 1220 2 and 1234 2 [security and exhibit of sacred and precious assets]; can. 1222 [reduction to profane use of a church no longer used for worship]; can. 1283 and 1284 [duties of the administrators; inventory]); (Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium [1990] {CCEO}, can. 278 [protection]; can. 873 [reduction to profane use]; can. 887 1, 888, 1018, 1019, 1036 and 1449 [alienation]; can. 887 2 [restoration]; can. 1025 and 1026 [inventory]).

That the Church has now considered museums as places of cultural and pastoral activity, in the same way as libraries and archives, is a definite fact that one can see clearly in the Apostolic Constitution of 1988. The latter establishes the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, underlining its task of cooperation with the particular churches and episcopal organisms in order to establish properly museums, archives, libraries, so that "the collection and the protection of the entire artistic and historical patrimony may be well carried out in all territories as well as placed at the disposal of everyone who has interest" (John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, June 28, 1988 [AAS 80 {1988} p. 885-886] Art. 102).


The Nature, Aim, and Typology of the Church Museum

2.1. The Nature

2.1.1. Preservation in an ecclesial sense

In order to understand the nature of an ecclesiastical museum one should underline the fact that the presentation of the cultural heritage of the Church must take place first and foremost in the Christian cultural context. The art-historical patrimony of the Church was not made for a museum function but in order to express worship, catechesis, culture and charity. However, in the course of time as pastoral needs and people's tastes change, many artefacts became obsolete. Therefore, the problem of their conservation arose in order to guarantee their survival due to their art-historical value. The actual conservation and safeguarding from illicit acts sometimes imposes drastic solutions because the risks of dispersion are increasing even in an indirect way. Likewise the urgency of constituting ecclesiastical museums becomes evident in order to gather the witness of Christian history and its artistic-cultural expressions in adequate places, and to make them visible to the public after having organized them properly according to specific criteria.

Ecclesiastical museums are therefore strictly connected to particular churches, and, within these, to the community they serve. They are "not storehouses for inanimate finds, but enduring nurseries in which the genius and spirituality of the community of believers is handed on" (John Paul II, Message to the participants of the Second Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, September 25, 1997, n. 2 [L'Osservatore Romano, September 28, 1997, p. 7]). Consequently, the ecclesiastical museum is not simply a collection of objects in disuse. It becomes entirely part of the group of institutions of pastoral activity because it protects and enhances that cultural patrimony once "placed at the service of the Church's mission" and now significant from an art-historical point of view (John Paul II, Address, October 12, 1995, note n. 3). It becomes an instrument of Christian evangelization, of spiritual elevation, of dialogue with those "outside", of cultural formation, of artistic enjoyment, and of historical knowledge. It is therefore a place of knowledge, enjoyment, catechesis, and spirituality. Thus, "the importance of parochial, diocesan and regional ecclesiastical museums and of literary, musical, theatrical or cultural works of religious inspiration in general must be stressed, to give a concrete and beneficial appearance to the historical memory of Christianity" (ibid., Message of September 25, 1997, note n. 3) and therefore make visible the pastoral action of the Church in a given territory.

The ecclesiastical museum is to be considered an integral and interactive part of other institutions existing in each particular church. In organizing it, it should not represent a separate institution, but it should be connected to and placed in a territory in order to make visible the unity and inseparability of its entire art-historical patrimony, its continuity and development in time, its fruition now in the Church environment. Since it is intimately connected with the mission of the Church, its content should not lose its intrinsic aim and destination in terms of the use for which it was created.

The ecclesiastical museum, therefore, is not a static structure but a dynamic one that finds full promotion through the coordination of museum artefacts with those still in place. One should guarantee on a juridical and practical level the eventual temporary re-use of museum artefacts, both for strictly pastoral and liturgical reasons as well as for social and cultural ones. Initiatives of cultural promotion and dialogue should be launched for the sake of the study, enjoyment and use of museum treasures. In fact, through museums, exhibits, conventions, sacred plays, performances and other events as well, one should be able to read once more organically and relive spiritually the history of a specific Church community that still exists.


2.1.2. Presentation in an ecclesial sense

Around the ecclesiastical museum environment that gathers primarily the patrimony that risks dispersion, one must develop a plan for knowing the past in order to lead to the re-discovery of ecclesial activity. Accordingly, the ecclesiastical museum becomes within a given territory a place of ecclesial, social, cultural gathering.

The ecclesiastical museum is to be connected in a strict way with the territory of which it is a part because it "completes" and "synthesizes" other Church settings. It is characterized by its reference to a specific territory in order to highlight its historical, cultural, social, and religious make-up. Thus, the protection and promotion of the entire local art-historical patrimony should refer to it in order to show how human and Christian history made a valuable contribution within the community and individuals.

"The will on the part of the community of believers, and in particular of Church institutions, to gather since the apostolic period the witness of the faith and to cultivate their memory, expresses the uniqueness and unity of the Church that lives out these recent times of history. The venerated memory of what was said and done by Jesus, of the first Christian community, of the Church of martyrs and her first Fathers, of the expansion of Christianity in the world, is a sufficient reason to give praise to the Lord and to thank Him for the "great things' that have inspired His people. In the mind of the Church the chronological memory brings about a new spiritual reading of the events in the context of the event of salvation and imposes the urgency of conversion in order to obtain that they may be one". (Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Circular Letter The Pastoral Function of Church Archives, note n. 1.1.).

Such memory is embodied in human treasures that have influenced the environment in order to shape it for spiritual needs. From these artefacts one can trace the path of the activities of the Church. For this reason, they should be preserved with care, for both their historical as well as their artistic value. Consequently, by stating that what is contained in ecclesiastical museums is an "asset to memory", means inserting this sector among the means of pastoral activity because what is good for the Church serves the "salus animarum" (salvation of souls).

Ecclesiastical museums are part of that specific pastoral action producing in today's reality the memory of the cultural, charitable and educational activity of the Christian communities that preceded the present ones, in order to give witness to the one and only faith. They are therefore "ecclesial places" because: 

- they are an integral part of the mission of the Church throughout time and in the present age;
- they witness to the action of the Church through the service of works of art for catechesis, worship, and charity;
- they are signs of the historical development and continuity of faith;
- they represent a part of the many social situations of the ecclesial territory;
- they are finalized according to the current development of the inculturation of the faith;
- they present the beauty of those human creative activities intended to express the "glory of God".

Accordingly, access to an ecclesiastical museum requires an interior attitude, because in such an environment one should not only see beautiful things, but in their beauty, one should also be led to perceive the sacred.

A visit to an ecclesiastical museum cannot simply represent a cultural and tourist activity because many works on display express the faith of the authors and recall the sense of the faith of the community. Such works should be interpreted, understood, used according to their complex and global sense in order that one can come to grips with their authentic, original and ultimate significance.


2.2. Aim

2.2.1. Safeguarding memory

The aim of an ecclesiastical museum is connected to the "sensus ecclesiae" (feeling for the church) which sees in the history of the church the progressive development of God's people. Therefore the ecclesiastical museum assumes a specific aim in the context of the pastoral action of the local Church.

The ecclesiastical museum, in particular, serves different functions among which one can indicate the following: 

- the conservation of artefacts in so far as it gathers all those works that, due to the difficulty of protecting them, their unknown origin or alienation, the destruction or degradation of the original places where they belonged, as well as other different risks, cannot stay in their original location;

- the investigation of the history of the Christian community, because the criteria for museological display, the selection of the pieces and their placement, should reconstruct and tell about the temporal and territorial progress of the Christian community;

- the display of historical continuity since the ecclesiastical museum should represent, by the material it contains, the "stable memory" of the Christian community and at the same time its "active and current presence";

- a comparison with other cultural expressions characterizing the territory, since the preservation of the cultural patrimony must have a "catholic" dimension; in other words, take into consideration all those who were present and the manifestations within a territory as the Church developed.

2.2.2. Pastoral action through memory

The ecclesiastical museum partakes of the context of that complex relationship between the faithful and cultural patrimony by referring particularly to objects for worship that become "signs of grace" and assume a "sacramental" character (Paul VI, Address for the Feast of the Dedication of the Vatican Basilica, November 17, 1965, [Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, III, Vatican City 1965, pp. 1101-1104]).

"The Church, teacher of life, cannot but assume also the ministry of helping contemporary man rediscover religious marvel before the fascination of beauty and wisdom that is released from that which history has handed down to us. Such a task necessitates a daily and constant work of orientation, encouragement and exchange" (John Paul II, Message of September 25, 1997, note n. 4). The ecclesiastical museum has the prerogative of being a means of increasing faith. It is connected with the pastoral action carried out by the Church throughout the centuries in order to account for the seeds of truth sown by each generation, to allow people to become illuminated by the splendour of beauty incarnate in sensible works and to recognize the traces of the "transitus Domini" in human history. (See Paul VI, Address to the participants of the Fifth Congress of Church Archivists, September 26, 1963 [Archiva Ecclesiae 5-6 {1962-1963} pp. 173-175]).

This primary pastoral task is confirmed by the typology of cultural goods normally conserved in ecclesiastical museums. Such artefacts, even if different, make reference to one unique "cultural system" and help reconstruct the theological, liturgical and devotional attitude of the community.

Therefore things used for divine worship, for the formation of the faithful and charitable works are not simply "dead things" even if they can become obsolete. In fact, other components "survive" in them as cultural, theological, liturgical, historical aspects and, above all, artistic ones, in order to allow them to continue serving a pastoral function.

In this context, the ecclesiastical museum gives witness to the activity of the Church since and throughout the time it exercised the pastoral mission of memory and beauty. It becomes the sign of historical becoming, of cultural changes, of changes in taste. In accord with the logic of the incarnation, it is the impact left by preceding Church activity that had as its goal the inculturation of the faith. It narrates the history of the Christian community through what the different rites, the multiple forms of piety, the different social settings, the specific environmental situations have witnessed. It presents the beauty of what has been created:  for worship in order to evoke the inexpressible divine "glory"; for catechesis in order to instill a sense of wonder in the evangelical narration; for culture in order to embellish the greatness of creation; for charity in order to show the essence of the Gospel message. It belongs to the irreducible complexity of the action of the Church at the time when it is a "living reality".

As a pastoral tool, the ecclesiastical museum serves to discover and relive the witness of faith of past generations through visible works. It leads to the perception of beauty expressed in different ways in ancient and modern works so as to lead the soul, will and mind towards God. The fragility of materials, natural disasters and adverse or unfortunate historical conditions, the change of cultural sensitivities, liturgical reforms, are all documented in ecclesiastical museums. These recall, through scanty remains or even insignificant works, past epochs, while showing, through the beauty of what is preserved, man's creative potential as well as the faith of believers. Museum institutions serve, therefore, a formational and educational function by offering an historic perspective and at the same time aesthetic enjoyment.


2.3. Typology

2.3.1. The typology of museum institutions

The typologies according to which an ecclesiastical museum can be established vary. Types of museums have varied in different epochs, often thanks to Church officials who showed an extraordinary spirit of initiative. Nevertheless, a complete typological list of ecclesiastical museums does not exist. If one wants to attempt a general summary, one can refer to the Church entity that represents the owner or that has been responsible for its origin, or one can refer to the kind of patrimony stored in the museum itself.

In the historical introduction (see the present Circular at n. 1.3. Historical Background regarding the Preservation of the Art-Historical Patrimony), we have already referred to "cathedral treasuries" as well as those older museums that can be properly called ecclesiastical. These museums, in many cases, still exist today, while preserving their function of protecting precious liturgical objects, some of which, in certain circumstances, can be still used for worship. In the course of the centuries, "cathedral museums" were added to these "treasuries", and in some areas also the "Opera del Duomo" (workshop of the Cathedral) that have a less evident connection with worship, because they primarily preserve and display art work and other finds taken from the cathedral and its surrounding area.

In the same historical introduction we also mentioned various types of possible "collections" usually of a monographic nature (artistic, archeological, scientific collections), some containing noteworthy antique artefacts, others with material of more recent date. These collections, that sometimes have become Church property as a result of accidental circumstances, have different provenance:  private citizens, Church entities, civil entities, other institutions.

During the post-Vatican Council period the birth of "diocesan museums" increased. In a variety of cases they were established in order to combat the danger of the dispersion of the diocesan artistic patrimony. Similar to these "diocesan museums", "parish museums", "monastic museums", "convent museums", "museums of religious institutions" (for example "missionary museums"), "museums of confraternities", and of other ecclesiastical institutions are quite wide-spread today.

The museums we have recalled refer to a single religious monument, a particular ecclesiastical territory, a specific religious institute. Their nature is different as is the aim they reflect. For example, museums of religious institutions present the historical and geographical features of the presence and development of a particular institute of consecrated life or a society of apostolic life within a specific territory or, in a more general way, their work carried out in various parts of the world. Other museums, such as parish and inter-parish ones, reflect the specific territorial realities that are characterized by well defined ecclesiastical jurisdictions and settings. Missionary museums, on the other hand, reflect the cultures met through the work of evangelization by often underlining the importance of cultural anthropology.

2.3.2. The typology of objects gathered

Ecclesiastical museums preserve what refers to the history and the lifestyle of the Church and the community, even material considered to be of lesser importance. They thus avoid the elimination, putting aside, alienation, and dispersion of objects now no longer in use for liturgical-pastoral services. They allow this material to be protected, preserved and used as the art-historical documentation of the Church's activity in all its different manifestations.

Since we must generally identify some types of artefacts present in ecclesiastical museums, we can first of all discern those with a liturgical or para-liturgical use that can be grouped in several major categories as follows: 

- works of art (paintings, sculptures, decorations, engravings, prints, works in wood or of other material of minor quality);
- sacred vessels;
- furnishings;
- reliquaries and ex voto;
- liturgical vestments, textiles, lace, embroidered fabrics; ecclesiastical dress;
- musical instruments;
- manuscripts and liturgical books, choral books, musical scores, etc: 

To this material, which often constitute the patrimony of ecclesiastical museums, one can often add other objects that usually belong to archives and libraries, as: 

- artistic and/or architectural plans (drawings, models, sketches, maps, etc.);
- documentary material connected to the artefacts (wills, juridical acts, bequests, etc.);
- diaries on works, documentation on collections and on activities inherent to the artistic and historical patrimony, etc.;
- other materials connected in some way to the art-historical patrimony (rules, statutes, registers, etc.) regarding dioceses and parishes, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Confraternities and Pious Works.

Besides this, the ecclesiastical museum must look after the preservation of the memory of those traditions, customs, habits, characteristic of the Church community and civil society, especially in those nations where the conservation of artefacts and documents still does not represent a major task. But besides these typological subdivisions, the ecclesiastical museum is further given the task of demonstrating in a clear manner the "spirit" of the individual works that it preserves and exhibits.

It should not attribute to them only an artistic, historical, anthropological, cultural value but it should show, above all, their spiritual and religious dimension. This dimension points out specifically the identity of those artefacts with a devotional, cultual, charitable function, in order that this may be the perspective with which to understand the will of the donor, the sensitivity of the patron, the ability of the artist to interpret this aspect and the complex significance of the work itself.

2.4. The Institution

The task of coordinating, organizing, promoting what belongs to the patrimony of the Church (CIC, can. 1257 1 - "All temporal goods which belong to the universal Church, the Apostolic See, or other public juridic persons within the Church are ecclesiastical goods and are regulated by the following canons as well as by their own statutes", see CCEO, can. 1009 2) in the respective Dioceses or in the Particular Churches they are a part of (CIC, can. 368 - "Particular Churches in which and from which exists the one and unique Catholic Church are first of all dioceses; to which unless otherwise evident are likened a territorial prelature, a territorial abbacy, an apostolic vicarate, an apostolic prefecture, and an apostolic administration which has been erected on a stable basis", see CCEO, can. 178), and thus also that which belongs to a diocesan museum or other ecclesiastical museums dependent on the dioceses, is the responsibility of the diocesan Bishop (CIC, can. 381 1 - "A diocesan Bishop in the diocese committed to him possesses all the ordinary, proper and immediate power which is required for the exercise of his pastoral office except for those cases which the law or a decree of the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme authority of the Church or to some other ecclesiastical authority". 2. "Unless it appears otherwise from the nature of the matter or from a presciption of the law, persons who head the other communities of the faithful mentioned in can. 368 are equivalent in law to a diocesan Bishop") who should be properly assisted by the Diocesan Commission or by the Office for Sacred Art and Patrimony. Reflecting the spirit of this Circular Letter, ecclesiastical museums are to be considered among the instruments "placed at the service of the mission of the Church" (John Paul II, Address of October 12, 1997, note n. 3), so they should become part of the diocesan pastoral project. (In a general sense what refers to the cultural heritage enters into part of the apostolic action of the Church cared for and promoted by the Diocesan Ordinary. See CIC, can. 394 1 - "The Bishop is to foster the various aspects of the apostolate within his diocese and see to it that wihtin the entire diocese or within its individual districts all the works of the apostolate are coordinated under his direction, with due regard for their distinctive character". 2 - "He is to urge the faithful to exercise the apostolate in proportion to each one's condition and ability, since it is a duty to which they are bound; he is also to recommend to them that they participate and assist in the various works of the apostolate in accord with the needs of place and time", see CCEO, can. 203 1-2). The establishment of museum structures becomes necessary for the conservation, protection, promotion of the artistic and historical patrimony. In fact, "whenever such works be considered no longer suitable for worship, they should never be destined to a profane use, but they should be placed in an adequate place accessible to everyone, that is either a diocesan or inter-diocesan museum". (Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, Circular Letter Opera Artis, note n. 6. Council of administration and financial management; 7. Secretariat and archives; 8. Custodians and personnel. Points for the Regulation:  1. General Criteria for the acquisition of works; 2.

Inventorying the works; 3. Exhibition of the works; 4. Rule for photocoying; 5. Rules for loans; 6. Opening hours and rules regarding visitors flow; 7. Security systems). The museum must be instituted by the Bishop's decree and should possibly be given a specific statute or rule that should indicate (* in the drafting of the Statutes and Regulations one can indicatively keep in mind some aspects listed below: 

Points for the constitution of a diocesan museum [and similarly for an ecclesiastical museum]:  1. date of foundation, property; 2. institutional aims; 3. brief description of the location and the collections; 4. director - nomination, length of nomination, functions and competences; 5. the commission of the museum:  nomination of members and length, functions and competences; 6. council of administration and financial management; 7. secretariat and archives; 8. custodians and personnel. Points for the norms:  1. general criteria for the acquisition of works; 2. inventorying the works; 3. exhibition of the works; 4. rule for photocoying; 5. rules for loans; 6. opening hours and rules regarding visitors flow; 7. security systems), respectively, first its nature and aim, and second its structure and practical organization. No new ecclesiastical museums can be established by ecclesiastical, public or private entities, even if partially or totally financed by them, without the consent of the competent diocesan Bishop.

In establishing a museum, it would be wise, whenever possible, also to establish a specific Committee made up of several experts and guided by a director nominated by the Bishop. In accord with the competent Church authorities, he would look after the organization of the museum spaces, the selection of material, the strategies of exhibition, the relations with personnel, the instruction of visitors and all that is required for an effective operation of an institution like this. Particular attention should be focused on the availability of resources and, in this respect, any public funding available.

Major Superiors of religious institutes (see CIC, can. 620 - "Major superiors are those who govern a whole institute, a province of an institute, some part equivalent to a province, or an autonomous house, as well as their vicars. Comparable to these are the abbot primate and superior of a monastic congregation, who nonetheless do not have all the power which universal law grants major superiors", see CCEO, can. 418) and societies of apostolic life (see CIC [1983], can. 734 - "The governance of a society is determined by the constituions, with due regard for cann. 617-633, according to the nature of each society", see CCEO, can. 557) are those responsible, by norm of their own right, for the patrimony belonging to their respective institutions. They fulfill their task with the aid of the local Superior, next to whose house the museum is founded. The norms indicated for the coordination, organization, and management of museums should be applied also to museums belonging to religious institutions and to societies of apostolic life, while keeping in mind civil laws established in this regard and the rules of the lifestyle of the members of the respective institution in charge of the museum.

In accordance with the indications outlined in the Circular Letter on the Patrimony of Religious Institutes addressed to General Superiors by our Pontifical Commission (see Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Circular Letter The Cultural Heritage of Religious Institutes, April 10, 1994, Prot. N. 275/92/12 [Enchiridion Vaticanum 14/918-947]), it would be advisable that collaboration be established whenever possible between dioceses and communities, as well as a common orientation in regards to the cultural patrimony in general and ecclesiastical museums in particular. (CIC [1983], can. 678 3 - "In organizing the works of the apostolate of religious, it is necessary that diocesan Bishops and religious superiors proceed after consultation with each other", see CCEO, can. 416). If then the museum structure should assume public connotations one should follow the regulations and orientations issued by the diocesan Bishop.

In the case where the diocesan museum should be assigned to the care of a religious institution, the dispositions foreseen by can. 681 should be observed. (See Codes Iuris Canonici [1983], can. 681 1 - "Works which are entrusted to religious by the diocesan Bishop are subject to the authority and direction of this same Bishop, with due regard for the right of religious superiors according to the norm of can. 678 2, 3"; 2. "In these cases a written agreement is to be drawn up between the diocesan Bishop and the competent superior of the institute, which, among other things, expressly and accurately defines what pertains to the work to be carried out, the members to be devoted to this, and economic matters". See CCEO, can. 415 3).


The Organization of an Ecclesiastical Museum

3.1. The Site

3.1.1. The Structure

First of all the ecclesiastical museum must have a precise location in a building and possibly on ecclesiastical property. In many cases it usually is a building of great architectural-historical value that alone can identify and characterize the ecclesiastical museum.

The organization of the areas should follow definite criteria. The setting up of a museum should correspond to a global plan developed by a competent architect on this subject, assisted by specialists. They should be competent both on a technical level (in terms of exhibition spaces and facilities) as well as on a humanistic level (theological and art-historical disciplines).

The plan of an ecclesiastical museum should be developed keeping in mind the location, the typology of the artefacts, the "ecclesial" character of the museum. In fact, the location of the ecclesiastical museum cannot be understood as a simple environment. The works cannot be taken out of an ecclesial setting, which explains why they were commissioned, and they should be housed in what is an ecclesial setting.

Consequently, ancient monasteries, convents, seminaries, episcopal palaces, clerical environments, that in many cases are used as sites of ecclesiastical museums, must be able to maintain their identity and, at the same time, be at the service of this new purpose so that visitors may appreciate both the significance of the architecture and the proper value of the works displayed.

The ecclesiastical museum's layout should be practical to allow easy circulation without causing inconvenience to the public or employees. In addition, ensure that the necessary measures be applied as regards the entrance, in particular for disabled visitors, in conformity with the national and international legislation on the subject.

We give a possible layout of the organization of an ecclesiastical museum.

3.1.2. Entrance

The museum entrance is very importance since it is where visitors first come into contact with the museum. It should show above all the mind that has generated the museum and characterizes it. It should be organized in an easily accessible and recognizable way. Its structure should highlight the museum's identity:  sober, simple, clear, in accord with current museological criteria. While offering a rich quantity of stimulating information, it should not accumulate this material. The architecture of the entrance hall must be meaningful to the visitor who must be able to grasp the criteria that leads to a global reading of the museum. It must therefore be inspired by that sacred space that it indirectly reflects. Its layout, whenever possible, should project a welcoming atmosphere to the public, and provide information on the museum's organization and its didactic itinerary.

The entrance hall is the place that prepares the visitor to move from an exterior, distracting environment to one of personal concentration, and the believer towards that spiritual recollection required by what he/she intends to admire. An inspiring, almost sacred, and very discreet "climate" should prevail in order to envelop visitors in this specific museum environment. The visitor should not begin the museum tour simply out of curiosity. Since the visitor is attracted by visual signs, audiovisual instruments, competent guides that place the visit into its right context, it would be wise to make available some support material (printed or audiovisual) in the hall in order to introduce the visit properly while keeping in mind the various types of visitor possible. In this regard, organized guided tours should not be overlooked.

3.1.3. Halls

The approach presented by the entrance should be developed all the way through the exhibit halls. The latter, through the display of the historical-artistic-social-religious message offered by the original artefacts or copies, cartography, printed matter and multimedia support material, should present to the visitor's gaze the multi-faceted history of a particular church, of a specific religious institute, of a shrine or other ecclesiastical place. Special attention should be focused on the organization of each room. The more well-defined they are the easier it will be for the visitor to follow the logic of the historic itinerary and thus assimilate the themes proposed by the museum facility.

The display of the objects and their presentation to the public should be thought out according to a global approach in order that the architectural container be coordinated with the logic of the exhibition of the artworks. (In regard to the operative criteria for exhibition and maintenance of artefacts one can refer to the directives issued by National Entities and Associations [as for example in Ireland a volume has been published by the Heritage Council, Caring for Collections.

A Manual of Preventive Conservation, Dublin 2000]). The structure of the rooms and the itinerary through these spaces must be part of a unique and organic proposal, whose general criteria should be adapted to the specific situation and particular intentions. It is then wise to include in these rooms places where visitors can pause and contemplate the works exhibited, especially in front of those that are most significant.

3.1.4. Display cases

The display case, besides properly preserving the objects contained in it, must also enhance the pieces on full view. Good lighting, that does not damage the colours of the artefact or distort their view, is advisable.

The shape of the container also plays a role, not only as regards the proper preservation of the artefacts, but also as regards the enjoyment of the object displayed. For this reason the objects need to be clearly identified since this aspect assumes a fundamental role in the context of museology. The captions identifying the objects should be, when possible, translated into two or three languages and written with characters that are easily legible and placed well in view.

To a brief description identifying the object that should include the title of the work, author, date, material, provenance, (and possibly inventory number) one should make available two different illustrative support tools - a printed and a computer one. The first would include references that relate each work with those in the museum and with those outside of it in the surrounding territory.

The second would include references that may deepen the knowledge of the individual works indicating the liturgical or para-liturgical destination, the significance of the name, the original spatial-temporal context, the symbolism, and eventually references to more famous objects, iconographical explanations, hagiographical notes and brief bibliographical information. All of this should favour and orient the study of the object while placing the knowledge of the artefacts exhibited in a global context.

3.1.5. Temporary exhibition halls

Since the ecclesiastical museum should be thought of as a cultural institution that interacts with other institutions existing on the territory enriching it culturally, it would be advisable to set up a hall for temporary exhibits or cultural events. Activities of this kind can be organized in order to observe specific occasions (for example:  important liturgical periods, patronal or titular feasts, civil circumstances, conventions, school research projects).

Such activities can favour the work of evangelization within the context of the cultural initiatives promoted by the Church or by public or private entities. These specific occasions can strengthen the connection between the ecclesiastical museum and the surrounding territory; they can make use of works in deposits following a system of rotational exhibition; they can facilitate the sponsorship of projects for restoration or particular display.

3.1.6. Halls for education

Besides display halls, whether permanent or temporary, the ecclesiastical museum should also include halls primarily destined for students, pastoral workers, and catechists. (For an adequate organization of educational spaces and halls one can contact the Entities and Associations on national and international levels that have developed specific programmes of museum education.

One should recall in this regard the programmes developed by the national centres of ICOM [International Council of Museums]. In addition, in various nations specific programmes have been launched regarding the enhancement of cultural heritage and the interactive approach of museum structures [as for example in the United States the MUSE Educational Media program and the project The Museum Educational Side Licensing Project [MESL] promoted by the Getty Information Institute in cooperation with the Association of Art Museum Directors, the American Association of Museums, the Coalition for Networked Information). In it, visitors should be able to stop and receive more detailed news regarding the history of the community or the entity, besides a contextual orientation of the materials exhibited and the connection between the past and the present. This deeper level of knowledge may be given with the aid of graphics, audiovisual material, illustrations, other innovative means. One should not exclude laboratory or research teaching references in order to stimulate interest and creativity in young people in the area of the cultural heritage of the Church.

3.1.7. Spaces for cultural formation

When the spaces and the circumstances permit, and in any case by making use of alternative solutions, it would be advisable also to establish the space for cultural formation and updating of personnel, volunteers, researchers, students that is properly equipped. Such a room would render the museum a livelier place and it would demonstrate that in the mind of the Church this institution is not simply a deposit of artefacts but an environment of reflection, dialogue, research and enrichment.

Having such spaces at one's disposal, would also allow to promote initiatives for the basic and permanent formation of operators in the area of cultural assets, including volunteers.

3.1.8. Library

Among the services the museum offers, a specialized library should be included. It is in fact advisable to open a well-equipped, updated library collection in the museum and a specific sector for a videotheque or other multimedia services, according to the facilities available.

In this specialized library there should be publications and other printed material on the art-historical patrimony of the entity owner or promoter of the museum.

The library fulfils the task of gathering and offering for consultation at least the publications on the local history and culture often promoted and financed by ecclesiastical institutions, local bodies, private citizens.

3.1.9. Historical archives and current archives

The museum should organize a current archive in which to keep the registers of acquisitions and loans, inventories and catalogues that are periodically updated, juridical and administrative acts, photographic and graphic material, etc.

It would be advisable to establish a specific historical archive as well. This should differ from the usual historical archive of the local Church, religious institute or other ecclesiastical entity. It should contain at least a copy of all material useful for the documentation of the events pertaining to the individual works contained in the museum. In fact, all too often, even official acts of deposit or temporary loan are dispersed and with them a useful tool for the juridical protection and contextual knowledge of the art-historical patrimony.

The discipline that should be followed concerning the use of the current archive, as well as the historical archive for those who work in this area, or for consultation by scholars, should be duly worked out by specific regulation.

3.1.10. Exit

The exit at the end of the visit, just like the entrance, should not be underestimated. For practical purposes, it would be well to keep the two separate, not only in order to avoid confusion in the flow of visitors (at least in those larger museums where such a flow actually exists) but, above all, in order to make the itinerary proposed easily accessible.

The conclusive moment of the visit presents an occasion to offer visitors a precise message by using various aids (books, catalogues, videos, postcards, objects, etc.) placed on sale in the bookshop or by simply distributing free brochures. Such material would help recall what has been seen while proposing a Christian interpretation of the itinerary followed and offering a clear token to recall the experience.

3.1.11. Places for refreshments

Particularly in the larger and more important museums, places for refreshments may be set-up in order to allow visitors and scholars to spend more time in the museum.

3.1.12. Offices of personnel

Next to the public area of the ecclesiastical museum, proper spaces for museum employees should be made available to carry out their tasks, in accord with civil regulations. The area should be adequate and practical for those who work to make the museum ever more efficient.

In particular, it would be wise to arrange for at least a director's office and a secretariat. The exterior of these offices should be in tune with what has been mentioned earlier. Note that the presence of an executive employee is necessary and it should be continuous if possible.

3.1.13. Halls for storage

The life of the museum also normally requires other service areas among which are storage spaces for the works not displayed. However, this concept should not be misunderstood. This space is not a place for forgotten objects, nor an untidy room. Rather, it contains works otherwise important and significant in the ecclesial context which for various reasons are housed there to assure more careful protection and conservation.

If such works cannot be used within the museum itinerary proposed, they may in time become an integral part of it. In addition, they can be used for exhibitions, either within the museum or outside of it. In this regard, the "rotation of works" should be kept in mind that, with the necessary caution, may be carried out both inside and outside the museum. A careful record of all loans and acquisitions needs to be kept.

Works placed in a deposit should be well arranged and easily identifiable. For this reason they must be correctly documented and registered in the general inventory of the museum or even in a separate catalogue; making sure that this documentation is regularly updated. In addition, it would be advisable that such works be made available to scholars and those institutionally responsible.
Some works are placed in deposits because they are in a precarious condition and thus they necessitate restoration. One should take particular care to safeguard them since they are in a delicate phase of their "existence".

3.1.14. Restoration laboratory

Where conditions permit, it would be advisable to establish a small restoration laboratory beside the museum deposit. Normally it takes care of maintenance and preservation work but it can also carry out urgent restoration on artefacts in an advanced state of deterioration.
If there is no internal laboratory then it is necessary to ask reliable, professional restorers to check the art-historical materials contained in the museum periodically. When possible, and if required, such a task can be carried out in collaboration with civil authorities.

3.2. Security

3.2.1. Facilities

Serious attention should be paid to ensure that the facilities needed for the proper management of a museum are provided. The existing national civil laws concerning electrical wiring, fire and other alarm systems, climate and humidity control must be observed.

Concerning the safety of individuals, architectural barriers should be avoided; all emergency exits along the route should be clearly marked; all facilities and structures should be periodically checked.

Care should be taken to guarantee the safety of artworks, the conservation of the cultural goods as such, as well as their protection from illicit acts such as theft. (Precise international guidelines have been issued regarding the exhibition of artworks in order to facilitate their conservation and maintenance. In this regard, one can recall some documents issued by the following international organizations:  ICOM, Code de Déontologie Professionnelle de l'ICOM, Paris 1990; ICOM, Documentation Committee CIDOC Working Standard for Museum Objects, 1995; Council of Europe, Revised Convention on the Protection of Archeological Heritage, Malta 1992; ICOMOS [International Council of Monuments and Sites], International Cultural Tourism Charter, 1998, articles 2.4, 6.1, 3.1, 5.4. To these documents can be added the guidelines issued on the occasion of international meetings on diocesan and ecclesiastical Museums, as for example, the Rom Dokument approved at the 44th Annual Assembly of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kirchlicher Museen und Schatzkammern, Rome, May 31, 1995). The preservation of artefacts requires correct control of the climate of the environment; protection from dust, solar exposure, bacteria; assured regular hygiene and disinfecting maintenance of the premises; periodic diagnostic investigation.

As regards the protection of works, one should apply preventive, security measures to all museum areas with particular care to assure a robust outer wall and the protection of all openings (bolted doors, screens at the windows or cellar openings, etc.). A good alarm system, possibly connected to the nearby police station, is advisable. A good up-to-date photographic record of every cultural asset in order to facilitate investigation in case of theft is essential.

3.2.2. Storage and protection

Good storage is fundamental. Care should be paid not only to the general protection of the museum premises, but also to the works placed on display in the museum itineraries or in the storage areas, especially during the rotation of the works in the museum and also outside it.

As some artefacts require individual care and protection, this calls for specialized personnel. Therefore, not only the general rules of conservation must be observed; each work needs to be checked and evaluated according to its state.

Regular protection must be assured both during opening hours and closing time. During opening hours there should be an adequate number of staff on duty to prevent works and structures being damaged. For this task professional volunteers may be usefully employed. Besides these alarm systems, it would also be advisable to keep a custodian during closing hours, if possible.

Above all, in terms of security, one should make sure that during visiting hours the personnel on duty are diligent and prudent in order to avoid accidents. When loaning works, special attention need be taken to guarantee protection at each stage, assuring careful handling during transportation (with specific guaranteed insurance coverage) and extra care when arranging the exhibits.

3.3. Management

In order that the ecclesiastical museum may adequately carry out its activities, the administrative management ought to be well-structured.

In this regard the following guidelines will be of help: 

- the entity owning the museum could set up autonomous sources of income (for example a "foundation" constituting a source of income) that allow for long-term planning of the activities considered essential;
- prepare a multi-annual budget that besides a medium and short term period can cover all the needs required, by the conservation and enhancement strategies, by following specific organizational procedures;
- envision within a more global plan an annual budget with a detailed estimate and stock of specific sources of income (entrance fee, occasional sponsorships, institutional entities, sales, etc.) and expenditures (acquisitions, personnel, costs, activities, restoration, insurance coverage, propaganda, printing, special events, etc.) in order to assure the continuity of activities, easily identify variations in expenditure, and plan of future interventions.
- give the museum an approved juridical status (both as an ecclesiastical as well as civil environment) and a detailed normative regulation;
- clearly define the judicical status of personnel, both employees and volunteers, (establish cooperatives or cooperation with other entities); promptly fulfil fiscal responsibilities; before hiring specialized personnel for various needs, interview them carefully; the volunteer services require good management besides assigning roles of responsibility; and provide employees with adequate guidelines and proper flexibility;
- promote the image of the museum through the communications channel of Church entities, cultural and didactic organizations, as well as local mass media.

3.4. Personnel

- Appoint an able, dedicated curator;
- it is advisable that the curator be assisted by one or more committees (or at least by some experts) assigned to the scientific, cultural, administrative organization of the museum;
- if appropriate, personnel may be asked to help in the secretariat, public relations, economic management, etc.;
- choose guards answering the above-mentioned criteria;
- employ well-trained guides to accompany the various categories of visitor.

3.5. Norms

Normal museum routine, in the context of the cultural heritage of each particular church, demands that the laws in force be respected. In this regard the following points are relevant: 

- in the first place keep in mind the norms and guidelines concerning this sector and its various aspects issued by the Holy See, the National and Regional Episcopal Conferences, and Dioceses;
- draft, if possible, Statutes or Regulations to be distributed by diocesan information offices (See note *);
- abide by international civil guidelines and above all those issued at national and regional levels (for example, the already mentioned guidelines issued by ICCROM, ICOM, ICOMOS, Council of Europe);
- structure loans of artworks according to general ecclesiastical and civil norms, first ascertaining the aim of the request and then recommending that the ecclesial context of the artefacts be observed;
- issue norms regarding the copyright of works in keeping with ecclesiastical and civil guidelines and customs;
- regulate access to data both printed and above all computerized information (on site or on the web);
- issue guidelines on the transfer of works:  unprotected, out-of-date, in danger of deteriorating in ecclesiastical museums or in other storage units.

For the storage of artistic-historical assets of ecclesiastical property (current ones and those being planned) in civil, public or private museum institutions (or the like), it is necessary to draw up an agreement aimed at protecting the property right, assure the safeguard and ecclesial fruition, define the temporary status of the deposit.

Even the restoration procedures must be carefully regulated with legal formality.

3.6. Relation with other Institutions

In the management and organization of the ecclesiastical museum, co-operation must be planned and encouraged with other cultural institutions, and in particular with public and private museums.

Such collaboration must be carried out by guaranteeing the autonomy of the individual entities and by proposing the drafting of projects in common to promote cultural interest in the territory.

In shared initiatives of this kind with other museum or cultural institutions, one should always protect the ownership of the artefacts, abide by the norms regarding loans, establish management agreements.


The Fruition of the Ecclesiastical Museum

4.1. Purpose and aim of the ecclesiastical museum

The ecclesiastical museum is a practical space for the benefit of the public, since cultural goods should serve the mission of the Church. She educates to a sense of history, beauty and the sacred through the cultural heritage created by the Christian community. Its practical purpose is therefore intimately connected to, even if distinct from, the educational function that must be carried out by the museum institution. To distinguish, in order to unite the educational function to that of use, means underlining the importance of the complimentary dimension between the cognitive and the emotional aspects; especially with regard to the life of religious persons, whose acts are defined as expressions of love for God and neighbour that necessitate intelligence, sentiment and will.

All the "places" of Christianity must be open welcoming spaces where "the gospel of charity" is proclaimed through each initiative. The Church has used sensible signs in order to express and proclaim the faith. Even works collected in museums are aimed at catechesis within the community and the announcement of the Gospel outside, so that they may be available not only for the faithful but also for those "outside" in order that each may benefit in his/her own way.

For these reasons the ecclesiastical museum, primarily destined for the Christian community, must be open even to a public of different cultural, social, religious backgrounds. It is the same Christian community that should welcome with the aid of museum employees those who are interested in religious memory, because "Ecclesiae catholicae nemo extraneus, nemo exclusus, nemo longinquus est" (no one is extraneous, excluded or far from the Catholic Church) (Paul VI, Homily - In the light of the splendour of the Immaculate. Greeting and Wishes of Peter to all souls, December 8, 1965 [Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, III, previous citation, p. 742-747]).

The public can be divided into different categories:  the individual visitor, the guided tour, the school group, the scholar. The complex ways to approach the museum suggest the diversified methodologies intended to facilitate the visitor's first impression and understanding of the different cultural needs.

An intelligent organization of reservations and guided tours can render a better service not only to the user but also to the employee. Each museum should organize not only the exhibition itineraries but also additional cultural activities with care.


4.2. Enjoyment and usefulness in an ecclesial sense

4.2.1. Usefulness in the mind of the Church

In order to enhance the ecclesiastical museum's usefulness, one should highlight the close connection between the aesthetic and the religious aspects. In addition, the indissoluble tie between the patrimony exhibited and the reality of the Church and the world today should necessarily be made apparent. In fact, viewing artworks promoted by Christianity is not unlike that of artefacts from extinct civilizations since much that the visitor sees is strictly linked to today's ecclesial reality.

Especially at this historical moment of widespread secularism, the ecclesiastical museum is called to re-propose the remains of an existentialist system that finds in the in the sence of faith its prime reason to live, experience and hope. The collection of material artefacts is not a sign of pride, but a sign of offering to God the genius of many artists in order to praise Him. Nevertheless, even the most beautiful things always show the limitation of human creativity and support Jesus' words: 

"Look how the lilies of the field grow:  they do not work nor spin; but I assure you that not even Salomon in all his glory was dressed as one of them" (Mt 6,28-29).

The ecclesiastical museum thus assumes an educational role in the teaching, catechesis and culture.

Museum facilities in fact offer to the public inspiring works for the re-evangelization of today's citizens. Through guided tours, lectures, publications (museum catalogues, catalogues of didactic exhibits, illustrated brochures of the itineraries on the territory) visitors can perceive the fundamental elements of Christianity to which the majority of them have personal knowledge through the sacraments of Christian initiation. With such an unusual instrument, they can find once more the ways to grow and mature in the itinerary of faith in order to be able to better express their own belonging to Christ. Non believers, in visiting ecclesiastical museums, can intuitively understand how much the Christian community gives importance to the proclamation of the faith, to divine worship, to works of charity and to a culture of Christian inspiration.

A careful reading of Church history, as regards her development in the local territory and as part of its art-historical patrimony, leads naturally to a knowledge of the great themes of Christian art.

Through the cultural inheritance passed on to us up until now one reads and understands the sense of sacrifice, love, compassion, respect for life, a particular approach to death, and hope in a renewed world. Such realities expressed by works gathered in museums point to the great aims of the Church's mission: 

- worship, that unfolds in the liturgy, in popular piety, in personal devotion;
- catechesis, that unfolds in teaching and education;
- culture, that unfolds in many sciences and particularly in humanistic sciences;
- charity, above all, that unfolds in works of spiritual and material mercy.

Around each of these aims sensible signs are closely interwoven that evolve and develop in time.

Their permanence constitutes the deposit of memory that can be protected and enhanced by ecclesiastical museums. Therefore, through this concept, one goes beyond the mere aesthetic and historic aspect and reaches a more intimate and deeper sense and significance in the environment of the civitas christiana.

4.2.2. Scope in the ecclesial context

Through initiatives promoted by the museum in the field of education, one can reconstruct the micro-history of the individual realities within a specific territory. Study days, guided tours, temporary exhibitions and other initiatives can help rediscover the essential values of Christianity in a certain location. The history of pastors and saints of the local Church can be re-discovered through forms of popular piety and devotion that have left an abundant art-historical repertory.

Other exhibits entrusted to museums show the important role of associations and confraternities.

The ecclesiastical museum carries out an important educational function for contemporary generations and in particular of young people, because, by presenting the memories of the past, it demonstrates the historical perspective of the Christian community. According to this vision the relationship between the school, the territory and the particular church becomes fundamental. In fact, the institutional synergies that derive from this can increase an awareness of the ecclesiastical context that finds correspondence in the art-historical patrimony of the Church. The re-discovery of events through finds becomes, in a sense, the re-evocation of a memory that is familiar also, and so much more felt. In addition, it represents an element of common interest towards the values of the faith transmitted.

4.2.3. Use in the Church context

According to common thinking, the word museum recalls to mind a place separate from present-day life; an unchanged, static, cold and silent place. Rather, the ecclesiastical museum describes itself as an authentic "greenhouse", a living centre for cultural development that can spread and strengthen awareness for the conservation and enhancement of the cultural heritage of the Church. The ecclesiastical museum has the unique task of preserving and displaying historical memories in the living context of the Church as they have been developed in a certain territory through many forms of artistic expression.

In order to reach such objectives, it is not enough to organize intelligent and well-planned exhibit itineraries, where appropriate works are placed side by side to delineate and explain an environmental context and a precise historical reality. The problem that must be tackled is that of how to balance the co-existence of the two primary functions of the Church museum structure correctly:  conservation and display. The criteria for exhibition must in fact contribute to enhancing the connection between the work and the community it belongs to, in order to indicate the ecclesial life of the Christian community of the past. Museum education must then give life to a communicative and formative circuit in order to make visitors aware of today's ecclesiastical lifestyle.

On the other hand, the time allotted for a visit often does not allow one to appreciate the historical and documentary richness of a museum fully. Therefore it would seem appropriate to organize itineraries in a diversified manner in order to offer visitors, contemporarily to an educational visit, relevant materials that can be consulted outside the museum.

The ecclesiastical museum becomes then a centre of cultural animation for the entire community. It becomes alive through the awareness raising of groups. It plans an annual calendar of events in order to insert it within a wider pastoral project of both the particular church as a whole as well as of the individual Church institutions that are part of it. In such a calendar one can foresee: 

- temporary exhibits that can show periods, artists, historical circumstances, spirituality, devotions, traditions, rites;
- lectures in fixed periods of the year according to thematic cycles;
- presentations of books, or new or restored artworks;
- meetings, workshops, debates with artists, restorers, historians and critics;
- presentations of events promoted by institutions or associations that would otherwise not be able to develop within the diocesan environment;
- the organization of catechism classes on the site.

But the best way to understand the value of artworks, and thus the sense of an ecclesiastical museum, consists in teaching visitors to look around for themselves and to connect events, objects, history, persons which in that territory were and remain the living soul present even today. The ecclesiastical museum can then unite past and present in the ecclesial lifestyle of a particular Christian community.

4.3. Use within the entire territory

With the use of the ecclesiastical museum, one can launch initiatives to promote the recognition of cultural heritage present in the territory. In this regard it would be advisable to: 

- arrange meetings between believers and non-believers, faithful and pastors, visitors and artists;
- promote awareness-raising in families as a place of education for Christian art and for an understanding of the values transmitted by it;
- inspire young people towards the culture of memory and the history of Christianity.

By its very nature the ecclesiastical museum must remain in close connection with the territory in which it carries out its specific pastoral mission since it gathers that which came from this territory in order to offer it again to the faithful through a double itinerary of historical memory and aesthetic fruition. Besides being an "ecclesial place", the ecclesiastical museum is in fact a "territorial place" because faith inculturates itself in specific environments. The materials employed for the production of the many artefacts refer to precise natural contexts. The buildings have a definite impact on the environment; artists and commissions are tied to the tradition that develops in a certain place; the contents of the works themselves are inspired and respond to the necessities tied to the habitat in which the Christian community develops. Monumental complexes, artworks, archives and libraries are conditioned by the territory and refer to it. Even the ecclesiastical museum is not a separate place, but in continuous physical and cultural contact with the surrounding environment.

Consequently, the ecclesiastical museum is not extraneous to other Church settings that belong to a certain territory. All have in fact the same pastoral aim and, in their different typology, weave an organic and differentiated relationship. This continuity is stressed in the mind of the Church through the cultural assets placed at the service of her mission. Such goods enter into a unique dialogue by which as a matter of regulation they are coordinated among themselves and as a matter of fact they must express this unity through their complexity and diversity. For its part, the museum gathers and assembles art-historical treasures by making visible a reference to the whole territory and to the ecclesial framework.

In reference to the territory the ecclesiastical museum carries out various functions. First of all, it abides by a traditional one of "conservative gathering" of what has derived from the areas in which the individual local churches have developed but can no longer be kept in their places (due to difficulty in custody, unknown provenance of the artefacts, alienation or destruction of the original places, degradation of the structures of provenance, seismic risks or other natural disasters). One can add, however, other functions that must be carefully considered while planning an ecclesiastical museum. The layout of the artefacts must show the history of a certain portion of the church. The museum structure is called to document the entire ecclesiastical territory, and thus should connect what it contains to the places of provenance. In order to make evident the continuity between the past and the present, the ecclesiastical museum should provide a stable memory of the history of a Christian community and, at the same time, it is also called to welcome occasional events of contemporary artistic expression connected to the action of the Church.

These functions suggest the use, whenever possible, of new multimedia technology that is able to present in a virtual, systematic and visual manner the intimate tie between the museum and the territory from which its assets come. In this sense the concept of an ecclesiastical museum can be specified as an integrated and spread out museum. Such an assertion refers to polycentric structures for which the diocesan museum carried out a role of coordination. Thus, around it, one can display the cathedral treasure and the cultural assets of the chapter in rotation; the collections of the parish churches and other Church places; the works contained in all the monumental complexes; and eventual archeological finds. A network is thus woven that can dynamically connect the diocesan museum with other museum structures and all the Church's cultural assets with the entire territory.

In particular, the diocesan museum carries out a peculiar task since it shows the unity and consistency of the cultural assets of the particular churches. In it, one should present the inventory of the entire art-historical patrimony of the diocese. With the aid of explanations that can be easily understood, one should place the cultural assets conserved and other assets present in their context within the domain of the ecclesiastical territory. With the use of scientific instruments one should have access to the inventory and the catalogue of the art-historical patrimony of the area (at least for that which is of public use). Thus a complex explanation of the inculturation work of faith within the territory is set in motion; that unites the entire activity of the local Church aimed at the production of cultural assets that are suitable to her mission; that shows the cultural and spiritual importance of the deposit of memory; that stimulates a sense of belonging to collectivity through the heredity handed down by individual generations; that favours solutions of protection and scientific research; that opens up to welcome contemporary works so as to demonstrate the vitality and the pastoral function of the cultural assets of the Church present in each reality in which the Christian message has been widespread.

In this sense the diocesan museum can constitute a cultural centre of great importance, because founded on the art-historical deposit that qualifies and unites the entire Christian community.

Together with it, the cathedral must represent a living patrimony that has in its complex a museum-treasury, structures and works that function to meet the various ceremonial and organizational needs. In the same way parishes, shrines, monasteries, convents, confraternities, are places that own artefacts protected within their own structures or in a centralized museum (with the guarantee to re-use them in particular circumstances). Even restoration laboratories and technical offices must make reference to such a diocesan center in order to insert themselves in the vital complex of the particular church. The conservation task reduces itself thus as only one aspect of the activity of enhancement that centers around the diocesan museum. Artworks, liturgical furnishings, vestments, etc. that for reasons of security, due to disuse or alienation of cultual complexes or to the precarious conditions or destruction of the structures housing these items converge in ecclesiastical museums, remain thus a living part of the cultural assets of the ecclesial community and the entire civil collectivity present in the territory.

The notion of an integrated museum system widens considerably and assumes ecclesial importance in reference to other civil institutions present in the territory. Such a concept brings about the juridical recognition of such entities as a whole; forms the basis for the request of public funding; conditions the cultural policies of the region; establishes systems of regulation and protection of employees and volunteers. Consequently, this new configuration has an undeniable social and political valence because it offers a cultural service of public utility and opens discreet opportunities of employment.

The typology of the wide-spread and decentralized ecclesiastical museum system qualifies the territory while enhancing the entire ecclesiastical art-historical patrimony. In this perspective the individual museum or collection is no longer a place of deposit or gathering of works detached from their context but a qualifying element of the local culture that has relations with other cultural assets.

The decentralized system that leads to the protection of the works in both the places of provenance and these same ecclesiastical spaces, underlines especially minor arts and at the same time makes precious every individual portion of the diocesan territory made up of parishes, convents, shrines, etc. If liturgical furnishings in disuse, lying around in churches, could be concentrated in one museum, they would be lacking the sees of provenance and the museum would become a deposit overcrowded by material. Such an option would devaluate these same artefacts that besides so many others and more important works, would become unimportant and less useful. Therefore, one should safeguard on site the various expressions that endow the environment evoking the memory of the benefactors and the commissions, famous artists and simple craftsmen, past traditions and current customs. If suitable structures are missing or can not be established, it would then be preferable to house the items in a centralized museum complex.

The diocesan museum can become a place for awareness-raising of the ecclesial community and a place for dialogue between the various cultural forces present within the territory. In order for this to take place one must proceed to assure a connection between inventories and catalogues; sollicit topographical and photographic documentation in the recording of the provenance of the works as well as the territory; promote illustrated stands, contemporary exhibitions, art-historical studies, restoration campaigns; organize guided visits that starting from the museum may lead to other monumental complexes in the area. This coordinated group of events will show the work done by the Church in a certain region and will favour the protection of cultural assets in their original context.


Formation of Personnel for Ecclesiastical Museums

5.1. Plan of Formation

5.1.1. The importance of formation

As an artistic-historical landmark the museum can assume a significant cultural role if it develops an activity of providing historical information and education in aesthetics within the context of a pastoral policy. In order to achieve such an aim one should proceed to form adequately the clergy, artists, museum employees, guides, custodians and the visitors themselves, in order to make them understand the specific nature of the Church's cultural assets. This should be done with a renewed professional capacity, deep humility, careful dialogue, openness and respect for local traditions.

The formation policy is oriented towards the presentation of works of the past and the promotion of new art work. Given the crisis of the sacred and the resulting impoverishment of cultual expressions, in the areas of architecture, iconography and sacred furnishings, it becomes urgent both to strengthen a connection with tradition in order to show the contribution made by the various epochs, and to be involved in the contemporary debate in order to inspire a new season of art and culture of Christian inspiration. The Church, in fact, has always been a client of the arts because she has seen in them an exemplary instrument to carry out her own mission. In the course of the centuries she has traditionally noticed "as an integral part of her ministry the promotion, safeguarding and presentation of one of the highest expressions of the human soul in the artistic and historic field" (See Pontifical Commission for the Art-historical Heritage of the Church [currently the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church], Circular Letter to Diocesan Ordinaries on The formation of candidates to the priesthood regarding the cultural heritage of the Church, October 15, 1992, Prot. N. 121/90/18 [Notitiae 28 {1992} p. 714-731] n. 1). A cultural operation of this sort requires the capacity for criticism as well as a great deal of formation. It is therefore necessary to plan a formation policy for personnel besides a mutual collaboration between those institutions dedicated to the care of the art-historical patrimony of the Church.

With the help of institutions and experts, the Church will be able to develop further the current interest for her cultural heritage while considering the work carried out in the two millennia of history and developing proposals for the future. Consequently, it would be advisable to give back to humanity a sense of history woven by both daily and great events; to show the influence of Christianity throughout the centuries in various social and cultural contexts; to recall those natural disasters and the wars that have led in some cases to the destruction of important masterpieces; to teach through a fitting plan of school education and permanent formation that the cultural heritage of the Church is particularly significant for the entire community; to recall that the ecclesial aim of this heritage is the proclamation of the Gospel and human fulfilment; to overcome discriminations between rich and poor, different cultural and ethnical backgrounds, different religious denominations and religions.

5.1.2. Urgent guidelines for formation

As a whole it becomes urgent to overcome a certain lack of ecclesiastical interest in the conservation and presentation of cultural assets; to combat the lack of preparation in administrative and juridical areas; to avoid the detachment of museums from pastoral plans; to overcome the lack of well formed clients.

- In order to overcome the ecclesiastical lack of interest towards cultural assets. While today, interest in the art-historical patrimony on a social level has been widely acclaimed, we sometimes notice a certain carelessness and lack of attachment to art-historical patrimony within the ecclesiastical world. As other pastoral needs come first, the lack of personnel and, presumably, an inadequate formation of those responsible, has rendered uncertain the protection of this patrimony.

In particular, inadequate formation of employees leads to poor quality management which becomes more evident especially in times of emergency (structural disintegration, risks from dangers, detachment of frescoes, alienation of artefacts, organization of security, juridical-administrative disputes, etc). In these instances often clear decisions are not taken because there is a lack of organic vision and preventive strategy.

- In order to combat the lack of preparation in administrative and juridical areas. The great expenditure of economic resources, often necessary to bring about major improvements, often results in serious overall deficiencies. Accordingly, it becomes necessary to develop a capacity for planning as well as administrative and juridical competence, and an inter-institutional collaboration (both in the ecclesiastical as well as civil environments). In many cases, in fact, one is not able to retrieve specific funding of a public nature (on regional, national or international levels) due to lack of information about grant procedures. In this context one should point out the urgency of making employees aware of both general and particular legislation on the civil and ecclesial place.

- In order to overcome the lack of adequately formed clients devoted to promoting cultural assets. The Church in the past has been in many cases an enlightened patron of the arts by introducing artists of all kinds into the heart of Christian spirituality. The witness of the past preserved in ecclesiastical institutions must inspire current patrons in order that the cultural assets may increase through an inter-disciplinary effort whereby artists can understand the ecclesial background for the greater success of their work. It is important to deal with individuals prepared for team work and ready to meet with contemporary artists (John Paul II, Address to the participants of the Italian National Congress of Sacred Art:  The artist is the mediator between the Gospel and life, April 27, 1981 [Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IV/1, Vatican City 1981, p. 1052-1056]; ibid., Letter to Artists, April 4, 1999 [pamphlet, Vatican City, 1999]). In this effort the museum can carry out the function of catalyst for the inspiration of artists, in helping them to deal with religious subjects.

5.1.3. Criteria for formation

The ecclesiastical museum can adopt its own and permanent role in providing education that could develop in three areas:  historical information, education in aesthetics, and spiritual interpretation.

In order for an ecclesiastical museum to carry out such a task it becomes necessary to educate accurately its personnel. In the education of personnel one should keep in mind some fundamental and necessary features: 

- educate the individual employees to be co-responsibile by inviting them to participate in the cultural plans promoted by the Church;
- educate towards a spirit of initiative by launching new activities and keeping in mind existing experiences;
- educate in an understanding of the area in order to achieve a fitting contextual approach for the initiatives within the range of cultural assets existing in the different particular churches;
- educate in the use of educational technology including multimedia in order to facilitate the visitors' approach to the cultural assets of the Church;
- educate in the pastoral dimension in order to encourage the use of the art-historical patrimony according to an ecclesial mindset and in ways adapted to different kinds of public.

5.1.4. Content of the education

Formational initiatives should foresee varied curricula with particular attention to the following subject matters:  history of the universal and local Church; art history and religious architecture; iconography and iconology; aghiography and spirituality; history of popular traditions; history of the institutes of consecrated life and their presence in the territory; history of lay ecclesial associations; history of catholic associations, confraternities, charitable movements and cultural institutions. In this regard one could organize courses, seminars, conventions, debates, series of lectures in order to stimulate training on a beginner's level, specialization, permanent or ongoing formation. Such educational initiatives also help to gather people of different ideological backgrounds with whom one might try to develop a dialogue that may be productive on the pastoral level.

For the employees and those who run the museum a specific type of formation is needed. Initiatives of this kind, besides offering the subject matters just mentioned, should also provide specific formation regarding the organization of a museum, its administrative management, didactic orientation, protection of goods, preservation of artefacts, legislation in force (on the subject of protection, fiscal measures, institutional relations). Eventually diocesan bulletins or other publications can instead care for the normal updating of information.

5.1.5. Places for education

Formation is carried out by many initiatives organized in the different institutional environments set up for it (local, diocesan, regional, national and international). As a whole, it is necessary to launch a constructive dialogue between clergy and lay people, between professionals and teachers, involving all the intellectual, human, spiritual resources that can provide the type of team work and inter-institutional collaboration necessary for the problem issues of protection, conservation, promotion of cultural assets.

Even in this regard competent territorial offices for cultural heritage are invited to function so that through round table discussions, conferences and debates, updated information may always be provided.

With specific reference to museums present in the territory, one should create an incentive for the establishment of commissions and associations of experts to whom the task of management and animation may be entrusted, both for general strategies and for individual museum complexes (as for example, national Associations of ecclesiastical museums and national Associations of inventory workers, etc.).

5.1.6. Inter-institutional collaboration

The presence of an ecclesiastical museum integrated within the territory involves many institutions and can give rise to various training initiatives. It is therefore of primary importance to encourage and support inter-institutional collaboration. On the diocesan and inter-diocesan levels, one must involve, when possible, civil authorities and other cultural entities in order to coordinate training programmes aimed at the presentation of the art-historical patrimony of the Church. In addition, it would be advisable to educate specialized personnel in competent academic centres, both civil and ecclesiastical, nationally and internationally. Educational programmes should not be conceived only for employees but also for visitors by launching strategies for ongoing formation.

5.2. Formation of Personnel

5.2.1. Principles for the formation of the clergy

In the overall plan, the formation of candidates for the priesthood and the clergy is of utmost importance. Those who are aiming at the priesthood and the religious life should in fact be formed to appreciate the value of the cultural assets of the Church as a basis for the work of cultural promotion and evangelization. Usually priests caring for the souls of the faithful also have the responsibility of maintaining the physical church building, and the artefacts contained therein. In the Circular Letter addressed to Diocesan Bishops on the Training of candidates for the priesthood (15 October 1992) (In regards to the problem of formation, the Pontifical Commission thought advisable issuing a first Circular letter [October 15, 1992] to all Bishops in the world regarding The necessity of preparing future priests for the care of the cultural heritage of the Church [Pontifical Commission for the Preservation of the Art-historical Patrimony of the Church - currently the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Circular Letter to the diocesan Ordinaries on The formation of candidates to the priesthood for the care of the cultural heritage, citation]. Since it deals with a fundamental aspect, three years later the Commission dedicated again a specific Circular to all the Episcopal Conferences [February 3, 1995] in order to ask what initiatives were taken so far for the formation of the clergy in this field [Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Circular Letter, February 3, 1995, Prot.N. 15/95/2]. Similarly attention has been turned to the work conducted by Catholic Universities on the cultural heritage of the Church. In this regard a Circular was addressed on January 31, 1992 to all the Catholic universities around the world and afterwards important data was gathered to orient the future work of the Commission [Pontifical Commission for the Preservation of the Art-historical Patrimony of the Church - currently the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Circular Letter to The Rectors of Catholic Universities, January 31, 1992 and Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Letters to the Rectors of the Catholic Universities accompanying the mailing of the Final Report on the replies of the Catholic Universities regarding the activities promoted for the cultural heritage of the Church, September 10, 1994, Prot. N. 239/89/18]. The Congregation for Catholic Education asked the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church to dedicate an issue of the Journal Seminarium on the theme The Formation of Seminarians Regarding the Pastoral Value of Cultural Ecclesiastical Goods [see Seminarium N.S. 39/2-3 {1999}]. A copy of this issue was sent to all the Episcopal Conferences around the world), this Pontifical Commission recommended that as part of the cycle of formation of these candidates "be included courses in which one can deal with in more depth and in a systematic way the history and the principles of Sacred Art, Christian archeology, archive science, library science. Such courses can contribute in identifying certain students to assign to these disciplines in order to prepare them to carry out in the future a stimulating role as well as assistance towards their brothers in Christ" (See Pontifical Commission for the Preservation of the Art-Historical Patrimony of the Church - currently the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Circular Letter to the Diocesan Ordinaries on The Formation of the Candidates to the Priesthood regarding the Cultural Heritage, see citation n. 22. The document speaks of the responsibility of the Church for the artistic patrimony "as an integral part of her ministry to promote, care for, and enhance one of the highest expressions of the human spirit in the artistic and historical fields"). It is therefore advisable to deal with themes relating to art, aesthetics, libraries, archives, museums in various courses of philosophy and theology. In addition, one should establish specialized study centres in order to train experts in the areas of the cultural heritage of the Church in which to address the problem issues inherent to ecclesiastical museums (To this end the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome since 1991 has launched an "Advanced Studies Program in the Cultural Heritage of the Church". This example was followed by similar programs instituted in Paris, Lisbon, Mexico and Brescia [Italy], etc. In the public academic centres of many nations, academic programmes of sacred music have also been established that can offer a valid support for the general preparation of employees of ecclesiastical museums).

Adequate training of the clergy assures the protection of our cultural heritage and favours the relationship between ecclesiastics and lay people in order to come up with a cultural project that is able to enhance the entire art-historical heritage according to ecclesiastical and civil criteria. In such a context one can orient the strategies inherent in the formation of ecclesiastical museum personnel. Even if priests will not always be able to be directly responsible for such institutions, they should, nevertheless, have the requisites necessary to promote ecclesiastical museums, to coordinate them within the entire network of cultural assets present in the territory, and to insert them in the pastoral plan not only of the Diocese but also of the individual local institutions (parishes, monasteries, convents, religious institutions, confraternaties, associations).

It is therefore advisable that proper courses be organized to update formation for the clergy in order to make them better aware of the importance of organizing and managing ecclesiastical museums and of safeguarding the cultural heritage in their territory.

5.2.2. Principles for the formation of educators and guides

The training project should also address educators and guides. One should not only train experts on a professional level in the various areas involved in the organization of the museum (or to verify their preparation), but more so introduce them to the specific Church environment that characterizes it. They should be able to place the art-historical patrimony of the Church in its proper context in terms of its catechetical, cultual, cultural, charitable aspects so that the availability of this patrimony may not just reduce itself to aesthetic criteria, but may become a pastoral instrument through the universal language of Christian art.

- Internal guides. In particular, the museum employee in charge of guiding the public is called to identify the characteristics of the visitor he is dealing with in order to introduce him to appretiate the works exhibited through special itineraries, for example, organized around specific subjects, individual objects, homogenous groups of masterpieces.

- Internal educators. The task of other internal employees in charge with the awareness raising of visitors, is to create occasions to meet, exchange knowledge, compare with one another.

- External animators. Besides employees inside the museum structure one can plan to form external educators who may be able to match the works on exhibit in the museum with the territory from where they come from by offering visits primarily to these same local communities, without leaving behind those that practice religious tourism. The entire territory must in fact become a "pastoral laboratory" open to all, besides a place of cultural education through its architecture, history, documents that witness the interest of the Church in cultural assets.

- Teachers and Church workers. In order to consolidate the tie between cultural assets and the pastoral plan one should therefore turn special attention towards the training of catechists, religion teachers and other Church workers so that they may know how to use the art-historical heritage they have at hand fruitfully by way of many kinds of activities and initiatives.

- External guides and tour organizers. With the aid of special financing one should be able to intervene also on the external guides and tour organizers for whom one should preferably lay down requisites in order to guarantee an intelligent presentation of the art-historical patrimony of the Church. In this regard one could require a certificate or diploma of attendance at an ecclesiastical course for those involved in religious tourism, similar to that which is required for religion teachers.

It is advisable that civil authorities be informed of a similar perspective, in order to coordinate orientation, procedures and accreditations.

The adequate training of those who run the museums as well as those who run the tours, in both ecclesiastical and civil environments, leads to a better collaboration in the field of the cultural heritage of the Church. In fact it creates a mature meeting point between individuals and institutions (experts in the various fields, institutions aimed at the protection of cultural assets, schools of every kind and degree, cultural and tourist centres).

5.2.3. Initiatives for the training of those who run the museums

The formation of the clergy and operators should be carried out above all in the usual places of formation made available by intervening on existing programs. In addition, it would be advisable to plan special intense and specialized courses on various levels. In this regard short refresher courses can be very useful if organized periodically on particular themes. In order to give continuity to the system of training the publication of special bulletins or circular letters can be of further help whereby precise experiences and administrative information can be reported, ecclesiastical and civil documents pertaining to the sector can be listed and an adequate bibliography may be provided.
The courses of formation can be thus divided: 

- for candidates to the priesthood one should preferably organize seminars in the seminaries in order to show what is already contained in the various philosophical-theological subject matters that can be applied to the area of cultural assets in order to prepare for their management, for relations with civil authorities and inter-institutional collaboration;

- to update those already in the priesthood it would be advisable to organize study days according to specific themes, as for example the theme of ecclesiastical museums (the organization and enhancement of the diocesan museum; the setting up of a parish or local collection; the integration of the diocesan museum in the territory; pastoral animation through the art-historical patrimony of the Church; relations with civil authorities; management issues; etc.);

- for directors (priests or lay people) who must assume the responsibility on a diocesan level of running diocesan museums it would be advisable to plan specialized courses eventually organized by the Regional or National Episcopal Conference. One could also make use of courses programmed by civil or academic institutions;

- for laity involved in presenting art and architecture, who should assume specific roles it would be wise to guarantee general formation at centres of ecclesiastical studies (universities, academies, pontifical faculties; higher institutes or institutes of religious sciences), besides a special formation with proper courses. In this regard, there are praiseworthy examples of courses already offered for these persons in cultural heritage and for tour guides organized by Institutes of religious sciences.

5.2.4. Initiatives for the formation of visitors

Even the public must be trained to use the cultural heritage of the Church properly by way of adequate initiatives. Such training can be carried out through the organization of exhibition itineraries, other collateral initiatives, school programmes, information technology, special congresses, cultural policies of the territory, etc. The public can be divided in two categories:  those who belong to the Church community, those who come from other environments. In order to reach a greater number of individuals it would be advisable to launch diocesan initiatives and local initiatives. In addition, one should diversify the activities offered on the basis of the typology of the specific public they address:  individuals of school age, adult public, tourists, pilgrims, etc.

Initiatives on a diocesan level. The following, for example, can represent some possible initiatives:

- organize periodically on a diocesan level study days and congresses on themes that may bring to light the cultural richness of a determined territory;

- programmatic guided visits to ecclesiastical museums, shrines, churches, and eventually Christian archeological sites and other places that are particularly significant for the diocese while trying to place the individual monuments in the context of the specific territory and its local Church history;

- look after temporary exhibits in museums and other church environments putting on display ancient and contemporary artifacts that can refer to the Diocesan territory or to the specific activity of a religious Family.

One should make sure that the various events may not only reflect a purely cultural value but may be planned according to ecclesial criteria in order to raise the consciousness of visitors, not only about the art-historical, but also the religious-pastoral value of the cultural heritage of the Church.

Initiatives on the local level. Educational initiatives aimed at individual communities or held in specific places can also be useful in order to show the intimate link between the cultural assets in use and those in disuse, to connect the works by stressing their historical perspective, to make emerge the relationship between past and present. The following, for example, can represent some possible initiatives: 

- revisit periodically, to have the faithful and other members of the community renew contact with their assets of art-historical interest in order to show the witness of faith and culture of preceding generations, and particularly their churches;

- develop an annual programme of congresses, study days, shows, visits whereby the local territory may be rediscovered and a sense of belonging may be further increased;

- involve in this work of animation especially young people, so that they can nourish religious, social, cultural interests;

- make the entire community understand that the art-historical assets of the Church are intended for everyone, particularly for those who are poor, because they express the Gospel message of charity and they represent the dignity of the Church community;

- open up to outside visitors by organizing activities that attract the visits of tourists;

- integrate the aims of older lay associations by involving the promotion of the cultural heritage of the Church.

Initiatives for tourists and pilgrims. The following, for example, can represent some possible initiatives: 

- for tourists, one should identify tourism in Church places as religious tourism, so that even the use of museums may fall into the area of the ecclesial life of the Churches whose works are preserved there.

- for pilgrims, one should present museum collections in a religious context, by making the path of faith of the Christian community, the patrons, the artists, and the forms of popular piety and local traditions stand out.

- for scholastic initiatives. For schools of every degree and type, the principal task is to interest students not only in the works on display in ecclesiastical museums or their history, but also in the gradual discovery of the territory from which they come from. Besides the school institutions for young people, particular interest in the cultural heritage of the Church can be developed by "adult university programmes" or similar activities, because they stimulate knowledge and creativity. In a school or in an academic context the following initiatives may be possible: 

- organize guided visits that may connect museums with the entire Church patrimony;
- launch research activity and campaigns;

- promote competitions (creative writing, collections of testimonies; projects of re-qualifications, drawings, photography, etc.);

- stimulate students in order to interest them to the art-historical patrimony of the Church.

5.3. The role of volunteer work

In regards to the distribution of Church tasks, it is important and useful to make co-responsible volunteer lay people trained in the various organizational aspects of a museum structure. In many cases, ecclesiastical museums, especially when small in size, are normally managed by individuals who carry out this service on a volunteer basis with a spirit of witness to the faith.

In organizing this volunteer work it is however indispensable that those responsible give special attention to the juridical-fiscal aspects foreseen by civil legislation in each nation. One should therefore look to see that such a service - beyond its generous availability - be carried on in accord with necessary professional standards. Even the volunteer worker should follow training courses and be granted the proper conditions, when necessary, to be counted among the personnel normally employed.

One can identify a few categories of volunteer workers: those who are retired, those who are looking for their first job; those who are professionally employed in similar activities in museums and intend to dedicate some of their free time.

- Retired persons. This category of people may take on an important role by offering their service free. Since they have a good deal of time available, they can offer their services for the many activities of the museum. It would be wise to consider that in order to integrate their service, they should observe the general criteria imposed by the norms, organization, schedule of the museum structure. The museum can make use of their energy and availability as it takes into account their previous professional experience and the museum's concrete needs.

- Students. Even young students, or those waiting for their first job, can be usefully employed in the museum in a form of volunteer work that can in some cases be paid (while respecting the laws that apply). Such volunteer activity may represent a possible training ground for future professional careers.

- Cooperatives. In order to meet up with the costly expenditures that may arise, in some museums forms of cooperative work supported by foundations, museum profits, Church associations may be organized. This type of presence can constitute an opportunity for work for young people and a decent way to manage the art-historical patrimony of the particular church.

- Professionals. In addition, there are professional individuals who desire to make their free time available. They can be asked to handle tasks from time to time in order to use their professional experience to the extent to which it proves to be useful to the organization of the museum. The collaboration of professional volunteers is useful and helpful especially in certain sectors of management and specialized areas.

- Consultants. In this regard, one can, for example, establish a commission of museum consultants, whose members, nominated by the Bishop for a renewable term of office, may offer their experience on a volunteer basis and promote certain research activity on site. They may make a valid contribution in order to establish criteria and launch proposals regarding the tasks of protection, organization, management, finance raising, and education.



The cultural heritage of the Church is a patrimony to be conserved materially, to be protected juridically, and to be integrated pastorally into the life of the Christian community in order to cultivate the memory of the past and to express in the present how historical works of art are to serve the mission of the Church. By contemplating artwork, the lesson of history takes a prophetic dimension, because "the Church, teacher of life, cannot fail to carry out the ministry of helping contemporary man to re-experience religious wonder at the fascination of beauty and wisdom stemming from all the history has bestowed on us" (See John Paul II, Message of September 25, 1997, note n. 4).

Ecclesiastical museums, as a place for the education of the faithful and the presentation of the art-historical patrimony, combine the value of memory with prophecy by conserving the tangible signs of the Church's Tradition. By means of the art-historical patrimony, they present the working out of the history of salvation in Christ; they present the work of Christian evangelization; they indicate in artistic beauty "the new heavens and the new earth"; they are signs of the recapitulation of all things in Christ. In the ecclesiastical museums the collection allows viewers to grow humanly and spiritually, and so museums rightfully belong to the pastoral programmes of particular churches.

Presenting this patrimony in an attractive way can be a new effective means of Christian evangelization and cultural promotion.

There are conclusions to be made that must guide the strategies used for promoting the cultural patrimony of the Church: 

- it could be helpful to develop a global plan on the subject of the cultural heritage of particular churches;

- such a plan should be closely coordinated with diocesan and parish pastoral plans;

- it could be helpful to seek the collaboration of public institutions in order to plan common policies for cultural development;

- the ecclesiastical museum should not only be considered a place to visit but also a place for cultural-pastoral meetings and for reflection on what took place in the past;

- it is therefore necessary to educate priests on this subject, not just by way of basic education and ongoing formation, but also by educating them on the ecclesial and civil value of the ecclesiastical art-historical patrimony;

- it is also indispensable to prepare the personnel to instruct and guide visitors;

- it would be helpful to promote research that would create new ways of learning about these treasures and new approaches to them by the Church;

- it would help, when possible, to present the cultural treasures where they are to be found by bringing forward the places and events that characterized the life of the Church in a particular place;

- it is advisable to offer suitable space to house what cannot be conserved on the site and to find ways to educate the faithful;

- the diocesan museum should be organized by drawing up an inventory and cataloguing what is housed there (to be coordinated with the inventory and cataloguing activity of the diocese), by promoting multimedia educational material, by setting up an active administration, by regulating the movement of the artworks, by planning the visitors' routes, and by calling forth collaboration between museums.

As the Church at present is intent on finding her roots, one should develop the ecclesial and civil potential of museums, in order to work together on exhibits and make ecclesial reality stand out.

In order to attain these objectives: 

- one should create interest in the art-historical patrimony of the Church by means of a fitting system of communication. This is the first work to lead people to "go-towards" the ecclesiastical museum and what is connected with it, by highlighting the historical, cultural, aesthetic, sentimental and religious value of the art-historical patrimony of the Church;

- one should put life into the displaying that goes on in an ecclesiastical museum by making visitors realize that the object they see is part of their own life. This is the dynamic of "bringing them inside" the ecclesiastical museum by presenting the treasures there as cultural treasures;

- one should stir up interest in the history of the Church by finding in it what can be displayed in a striking way in the museum. This is the third dynamic that "takes the visitor beyond" the museum, by placing a person in his own culture and by stimulating the desire to safeguard the art-historical treasures that he finds in his daily life.

In this way the ecclesiastical museum becomes a human place and a religious place. To the extent to which the person today understands the past he will be able to look towards the future.

To the extent to which the believer finds his own history, enjoys its artwork, lives in a holy way, he announces that "God will be all in all".

We conclude with an exhortation of the Holy Father:  "We are in an era in which ruins and traditions are enhanced in order to regain the original spirit of each population. Why shouldn't we do the same in regards to religious patrimony in order to draw from artworks of every period the precious indications regarding the sense of faith of the Christian people? Go then and carry out this task in depth, in order to reveal in the object the message handed over to the creative imprint of artists of the past. Innumerable marvels will come to light every time the keystone of comparison will be religion itself" (John Paul II, Address to the participants of the Italian National Congress of Sacred Art, April 27, 1981, citation).

In the hope that these reflections may be of use for particular churches by the direction they give and the specific regulations they suggest, I extend my prayerful good wishes for Your pastoral mission and Your work of promoting a Christian culture focused on the good use of the cultural treasures of the Church. I am happy to take this opportunity to renew my respectful regards, as

I have the honor to be
Sincerely Yours in Jesus Christ,

Vatican City, 15 August 2001,

Francesco Marchisano

Carlo Chenis, S.D.B.