Vatican to bring pope's encyclicals to life in architecture exhibit

A model depicts the garden that will be part of the Holy See's pavilion at the 2023 Venice Biennale architecture exhibition. The space is meant to represent Pope Francis' ecological encyclical "Laudato si', On Care for Our Common Home." (CNS photo/Courtesy Studio Albori)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Commemorating 10 years since the election of Pope Francis, the Vatican will physically represent the teachings of his encyclicals at the Venice Biennale international architecture exhibition May 20 to Nov. 26.

The Vatican's exhibit, titled "Social Friendship: Meeting in the Garden," will take visitors through scenes in which person-like "figures," holding their arms open in welcome and acting out scenes of dialogue, convey themes inspired by the encyclical "Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship."

The exhibit will then lead to a garden constructed of reused materials with plots growing vegetables from different parts of the world, chicken coops, seed storage facilities and rest areas. The space is intended to be one of contemplation and represent Pope Francis' ecological encyclical "Laudato si', On Care for Our Common Home."

Part of the exhibition will feature work by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza, recipient of the 1992 Pritzker Prize, which is widely considered to be the highest honor in the field of architecture.

At a news conference presenting the exhibit April 18, Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonca, prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, said the Vatican's involvement in the exhibition is an "extraordinary opportunity" since architecture is a "practical laboratory of the future, not far from typically spiritual questions."

The Vatican's exhibit is both an "intense political and poetic declaration about what a meeting between human beings can become," he said, and it "puts all living things in architecture, making us all jointly responsible for our common home."

"Over the 10 years of his pontificate Pope Francis has acted and spoken on involving all, without forgetting the peripheries, the poor and refugees," said Cardinal Tolentino. "This already constitutes a great legacy for the future of all those who desire a world that is more just and less wounded by social inequalities, and that is evident in the two parts of the Holy See's pavilion."

The Vatican pavilion will be assembled at the Benedictine Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, which will bring visitors "closer to the daily life of a Benedictine monastery and its Rule, opening the possibility for a renewed dialogue with those emblematic spaces of the architectural tradition," the dicastery said in a statement.

It will be the second time the Vatican has participated in the bi-yearly architecture exposition, now in its 18th edition. In 2018, it created an exhibit titled "Vatican Chapels" in which 10 architects each built small chapels, some futuristic and others rustic, in a wooded area of Venice.



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