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A paradox called Vatican


The Vatican is a place of paradoxes, where “power” and “forgiveness” are two faces of the same coin. That is how Timothy Verdon—one of the leading historians of Christian art, a fellow of the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.—explains the Rome of the popes in his Saint Peter‘s Basilica: The Popes and the Artists, published in Italy at the end of last year (La Basilica di San Pietro. I papi e gli artisti, Mondadori, Milan, 2005, pp. 210, with 155 illustrations, 20.00 Euros).
In his www.chiesa website Italian Vaticanist Sandro Magister publishes excerpts from the first chapter of the book ("From the

Rome of the Caesars to that of the popes"). Like for instance this one:

The key words here are “after” and “Christ.” The Vatican presents itself as the sign of a world “after Christ,” in which the paradox becomes the norm – a world turned on its ear. The humble fisherman who now triumphs where he died as a criminal is himself a figure of this inversion. Simon, called Cephas or Peter, the most important of the first followers of Christ, condemned to die on the cross as his master did, asked to be positioned upside down. He did not think himself worthy to leave this world with his head held high, because in a moment of terrible weakness he had denied knowing Christ. But in spite of his betrayal, Christ had forgiven him, confirming and extending the power he had already given to him, and this, too, was a sort of inversion.
 
These are, in fact, the main messages communicated by the place: forgiveness and power.

The Vatican expresses forgiveness through symbols of power, as Jesus forgave sins and then showed that he had the power to do this through miracles. In the Vatican, forgiveness is power, according to Jesus’s words to the fisherman Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose upon the earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).

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