Pope Francis Visits The Venice Biennale Vatican Pavilion 

San Marco Venice © Artlyst

Pope Francis made history on Sunday by becoming the first pontiff to attend the Venice Biennale, one of the world’s largest art exhibitions. 

The Pope’s visit to the Biennale, a place he has long admired for celebrating human creativity, coincided with his first trip outside of Rome in seven months. He used this occasion to emphasise the role of art in shaping culture for the better, a topic close to his heart. The Biennale, which began in 1895, features many works of art, architecture, cinema, dance, music, and theatre and is one of Europe’s most significant annual cultural events. This year’s edition features a special pavilion curated by the Vatican, showcasing works by female prisoners from a Venice prison.

During his visit, the Pope met with the prisoners and urged them to rebuild their lives “brick upon brick, together, with determination.” Despite concerns over his health, the 87-year-old pontiff appeared energetic throughout his itinerary, which included a boat ride through the city’s famous waterways. The Pope used a wheelchair and a motorised buggy during his visit and was accompanied by Francesco Moraglia, Patriarch of Venice. In his speech to artists at the Biennale, the Pope highlighted the role of art as a tool of inclusion rather than various forms of violence and discrimination. He called on artists to create “cities of refuge” that cooperate to rid the world of racism, xenophobia, inequality, ecological imbalance, and “aporophobia” (a neologism meaning “phobia of the poor”).

Courtesy Vatican Pavilion and Vatican News
Photo: Courtesy Vatican Pavilion and Vatican News

The Pope emphasised the importance of valuing women as co-protagonists of human adventure. It highlighted the work of several female artists, including Frida Kahlo, Corita Kent, and Louise Bourgeois. He also rallied young people to live their lives to the fullest without being trapped by the digital world. During his meeting with 1,500 young people in front of Venice’s Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, the Pope urged them to “get out of bed and accept yourself as a gift,” reminding them that they are not just digital profiles but children of God. He encouraged them to let themselves be picked up in a world that often wants to pull them down to take life into their hands and get involved with those around them.

The Pope’s trip to Venice also highlighted the struggles of Catholicism in its traditional heartland. The Veneto region, divided into nine dioceses, has seen a significant drop in the number of priests over the past few decades, as well as a decline in church attendance and a rise in the number of couples marrying outside the Church. According to some estimates, almost 30 per cent of children born in the Veneto today are not baptised, and the share of school-age children electing to take a voluntary religion course is also falling. In that context, the hope is that the Pope’s visit to the Biennale might help galvanise local Catholicism.

The Pope closed his visit to the festival with Mass in the square in front of the city’s famed Basilica of Saint Mark, where the remains of Mark the Evangelist, author of one of the four Gospels, are buried. During his homily, the Pope reflected on the role of Christians in fighting global challenges through the pursuit of solidarity, justice, and genuine community. The Pope urged believers to remain connected to God, emphasising that this is not a passive or static attitude but an invitation to move and enter into conversation with God and scripture. He called on Christians to bring the fruits of the Gospel into their reality and make their communities, neighbourhoods, and cities welcoming, inclusive, and hospitable places. The Pope’s visit to Venice marked his first excursion out of the Vatican in 2024. He is scheduled to make other day trips within Italy, to Verona on May 18 and Trieste on July 7, ahead of a major international trip that is due to take in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore in September.

Top Photo: PC Robinson

Read More




, ,