DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     November 17, 1999     vol. 10, no. 218

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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A Surface of 600 Square Meters of Mosaics with Millions of Stones

        VATICAN CITY, NOV 15 (ZENIT).- Yesterday morning, John Paul II inaugurated the "Sistine Chapel of the Year 2000," as the Italian media has called it. It is the papal oratory inside the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

        The oratory's decoration began in 1996 and was carried out under the direction of Slovene Jesuit Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, artist, theologian and director of the Workshop of Spiritual Art, an institution linked to the Pontifical Oriental Institute. It is a gift from the College of Cardinals to John Paul II, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his priesthood, which he celebrated in 1996.

        The "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel -- this is its real name -- today has become a mosaic surface of over 600 square meters made up of millions of hand-cut stones. The materials speak for themselves: granite, travertine, Macedonian marble, enamels, gold, white gold, mother-of-pearl ... A grandiose work done according to the style of workshops of Medieval art, under the direction of Fr. Rupnik.

        The chapel is not open to the public but, for those with the privilege to enter, there is a feeling of engaging in a new relationships with great saints of the past and Bible figures that seem to embrace the onlooker. The wall behind the altar includes saints from the East and West around Mary, the Mother of God, to whom the chapel is dedicated.

        Bright colors, reds and blues, and the dynamism of the work submerge the man of prayer in a new ambience, transporting him to a new dimension, in which the divine and human come together.

        The wall on the left of the altar depicts scenes from Christ's life; the mystery of the God made man who goes down into hell and transforms the defeat of death into victory.

        On the front wall, there is an image of Christ rising to the Father. It is the divination of man, as Christ takes with him all that is human. Heaven descends to earth: the Church is born, in which each one responds in a personal way to the love of God.

        In the rear wall there is a representation of the "Parousia," the second coming of Christ: paradise where love is eternal and where everyone resurrects with that which each has loved.

        After visiting the Chapel, Orthodox theologian Olivier Clement described it as "a prophecy of the 21st century," as it is an artistic representation of the road that must be traveled by the ecumenical movement between Christians -- East and West.

        While celebrating Mass in the Chapel this morning, John Paul II paused before some of the representations on the walls, in particular the Virgin "Redemptoris Mater" that highlights the message of salvation: Christ, born of Mary, who has changed forever the destiny of mankind. ZE99111411

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

November 17, 1999       volume 10, no. 218


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