The Holy See
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Charlemagne Wing, Saint Peter's Square
Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Mr Director,
Distinguished Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I very willingly agreed to take part in the inauguration of the photography exhibition called "Vatican Click", on display in the Charlemagne Wing [St Peter's Square]. It has drawn from the rich legacy of images collected over 30 years by L'Osservatore Romano Photographic Service, to which has been added the so-called "Giordani Collection" (more than 500,000 negatives, almost all black and white).

In some respects this exhibition has a value we might even describe as historic, because it is the first time the public has been granted to see, as it were at a single glance, a gallery filled with innumerable photograms that recount the key moments in the ministry of the Popes from 1930 to our day. A heartfelt "thank you" goes to all who conceived of, set up and contributed in various ways to making this exhibition possible, starting with the Director and those in charge of the Photographic Service of L'Osservatore Romano.

The inauguration takes place a few days after the happy events of the 80th Birthday and Second Anniversary of Benedict XVI's election as Supreme Pontiff. Hence, it is first and foremost a unique tribute to our Holy Father!

As they look at the various panels of the exhibition, visitors not only will be able to think back over the unforgettable and grand ecclesial events whose memory lasts for ever, but they will also be able to relive many simple, normal daily events.

In fact, as St Peter recalls, the Church is like a building in which, next to the precious marbles skilfully set and carved, far humbler bricks and bits of stone also have their place; they may be more simply decorated, with less of a finish and in a less obvious place, but it goes without saying that they too are useful and not without interest.

Attentive visitors will be able to admire images taken from a well-stocked archive of frames - as mentioned above - that also demonstrate the gradual development of photographic techniques: from glass plates measuring as much as 18 by 24 centimetres to the 25 mm. celluloid rolls of cinematographic film and today's photographs in digital format, electronically archived and disseminated via the Internet for possible consultation by many.

If all the images of various shapes and sizes available in the Photographic Archives of L'Osservatore Romano and the Fondo Giordani were placed side by side, they would form a trail of thousands and thousands of kilometres; they would make a virtual journey into past decades possible, reviving the same emotions and sentiments that famous figures and simple people must have felt on meeting the Successor of Peter.

In a word, it would be possible to reconstruct the Church's history, as it were, from within, with a perception of events from a privileged perspective: the viewpoint of the Pope.

Permit me a brief reflection. In the age of the image, which our time is, the visual language has unique importance in the sphere of communications in general, and in a particular way also in the areas of the communication of faith and knowledge of the Church.

In the past, art - I am referring here to painting, sculpture and architecture in particular - made a considerable contribution with its typical language to evangelization and catechesis.

Today, it is by means of images that the young generations are accustomed to communicating (only think of television and especially of the Internet), and they show interest in the reconstruction of recent history in particular, which they make their own through images.

I therefore express the hope that this exhibition, of indisputable historical and documentational interest, will encourage the rapprochement and, as far as possible, the encounter of today's generations with the past, of which to some extend we adults have been interpreters or witnesses; may it help them to become better acquainted with the Church and the role of the Pope in the web of events that largely marked the second half of the so-called "short" century, the 1900s.

My hopes are naturally not limited to children but are for all who visit the exhibition. May it be for each one like turning the pages of a photo album that shows the Successor of Peter meeting people, crowds and individuals, Catholics and representatives of other religions, simple people and figures from the worlds of politics, culture and sport; may it mean coming into contact with a cross-section of humanity embraced by the love of that man - the Pope - whom Jesus Christ desired to be the Pastor of his people.

It is a history of shared smiles, joy and happy feelings, but also a chronicle of suffering, sorrow, the cross, moments that were sad but always illumined by the light of the faith.

At the same time, may the photographs in the Vatican Click Exhibition provide an opportunity to interpret the history of our day: that past, even if it is somewhat removed, which the memory and power of the images can actualize, as well as the chronicle of our time; in other words, the events we have just seen or are continuing to see taking place before our eyes.

As pointed out at the beginning, the exhibition also portrays the rapid and accelerating development of scientific progress with its countless discoveries, inventions and developments in the technical field: from the cameras of once upon a time which today can be admired only in museums, we have reached the hyper-modern inventions of digital photography.

We have moved on from a definitive "click", from the fixed image to the photographic "take", which with sophisticated instruments can be modified at will. Through modern photography and the brilliant "click", the person enters into a reality that with his minuscule machine he fixes and modifies, whose colour he changes and to which he gives particular shapes until he has transformed a real object into a world of fantasy or vice versa.

In a word, the human being can become reality's film director, capturing shapes and sounds and letting himself be transported by the rhythm of his surroundings.

For the Church herself, advanced technology and scientific discoveries are an incentive to continually update communication of the Gospel; even if its content remains unalterable, it should be transmitted in a way that is ever easier to understand and adapted to the needs of the times by using every possible means.

For this reason, the photographic exhibition - and this is my hope - could be another form and a new opportunity for evangelization and for the proclamation of the Christian mystery, for which the work and genius of artists (painters, sculptors, etc.) once served and to whose image-techniques we must have recourse today.

The goal for both the "paintbrush" and the DVD remains one and the same: to make Jesus Christ and his eternal message of salvation known.