Missionary Museum of the CEP

Missionary Museum of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples inaugurated

VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2010 (VIS) – This morning at the Rome headquarters of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, a press conference was held to present the new Missionary Museum of Propaganda Fide.

The conference was presented by Fr. Massimo Cenci P.I.M.E., under secretary of the congregation; Francesco Buranelli, co-ordinator of the missionary museum’s academic committee, and Ludovico Ortona, president of the Italian “Societa per lo sviluppo dell’arte, della cultura e dello spettacolo” (ARCUS).

Fr. Cenci explained how the new institution, located in the Roman palazzo which has been the headquarters of the congregation for nearly four centuries, “is a complete museum, which not only has artistic value but which was conceived and created also and above all with a view to its specifically pastoral function”.

Francesco Buranelli recalled the fact that “it was Pope Gregory XV (Alessandro Ludovisi 1621-1623) who, with his ‘Inscrutabili Divinae’, founded the Holy Congregation ‘de Propaganda Fide’ … to promote and co-ordinate all evangelising activity in non-Christian lands”.

Buranelli then reviewed the contents of the museum, referring first to the Chapel of the Magi, originally an elliptical construction by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. “It was Cardinal Antonio Barberini who chose to dedicate the church to the Baby Jesus, adored by the Magi”, he said. “The Magi symbolically represent the kings of the pagan peoples who, guided by the star, were the first to go out to meet Christ and thus to gain the faith. The theme of the Epiphany is, then, extremely appropriate for a chapel intended to welcome the students of Propaganda Fide, who were destined to go out and transmit the good news”. With the advent of Pope Innocent X (Giovanni Battista Pamphilj) the work was entrusted to Borromini under whose direction Bernini’s church was demolished and the Chapel of the Magi rebuilt between 1662 and 1664.

The co-ordinator of the academic committee explained how the first hall of the museum contains a video presentation on the congregation’s origins, history and missionary activity. This is followed by a multimedia room in which visitors can consult the “Agenzia Fides” archive of more than ten thousand photographs, showing voyages in mission lands since the beginning of the twentieth century.

The museum route also comprehends the Barberini Library “which has been completely restored for the occasion”. The structure has a coffered wooden ceiling and a gallery with “portraits of certain illustrious students of the College”.

Finally, “there is the Newman Chapel”, Buranelli explained. Following his conversion to Catholicism, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman “lived and studied in the College of Propaganda Fide, and there celebrated his first Mass”.

For his part, Ludovico Ortona noted that this new project “gives the public a chance to see works which up to now were not available to them. Thus it enables not only the conservation, recovery and restoration of our artistic and cultural heritage, but also opens the way to new possibilities, making available all the hidden masterpieces … which are a measure of the greatness of Italian cultural and artistic history”.