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The Pope spoke to employees of the Vatican Museums last night:

Yesterday evening, in the Hall of Blessings in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, Benedict XVI received directors and employees of the Vatican Museums, which this year are celebrating their fifth centenary.

  In his talk to them, the Holy Father pointed out how so far this year over four million people have visited the Museums, 200,000 more than in 2005. A large part of the visitors "are not Catholics," he said, "and many are not even believers."

  "The approach to Christian truth through artistic or socio-cultural expressions, has a greater chance of appealing to the intelligence and sensitivity of people who do not belong to the Catholic Church, and who may sometimes nourish feelings of prejudice or indifference towards her. Visitors to the Vatican Museums, by dwelling in this sanctuary of art and faith, have the opportunity to ‘immerse’ themselves in a concentrated atmosphere of ‘theology by images’."

  Pope Benedict then went on to mention "a truth written into the ‘genetic code’ of the Vatican Museums: that the great Classical and Judeo-Christian civilizations are not in opposition to one another, rather they come together in God’s unique plan. Proof of this is to be found in the fact that the earliest origins of this institution may be traced back to a work we could well define as ‘profane’ – the magnificent sculpture of Laocoon – but that, in reality, in the setting of the Vatican, acquires its full and authentic light. It is the light of human beings formed by God; of freedom in the drama of their redemption, drawn between earth and heaven, between flesh and the spirit. It is the light of a beauty that shines from within the work of art, and brings the spirit to open itself to the sublime, to the place where the Creator encounters the creatures made in His image and likeness."

  "The Museum truly shows how Christianity and culture, faith and art, the divine and the human, constantly intertwine. And in this regard, the Sistine Chapel represents the insurmountable pinnacle."

  The Pope concluded his talk by stressing the importance of the example Vatican Museums employees show visitors, "offering them a simple but incisive witness of faith. A temple of art and culture such as the Vatican Museums requires the beauty of the works to be accompanied by the beauty of the people who work there: a spiritual beauty that renders the atmosphere truly ecclesial, impregnating it with the Christian spirit."

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