Yesterday evening, at the close of the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the launch of the Year of Mercy, the Vatican chose to allow the World Bank to finance a light show projected onto the walls of St. Peter’s. It centred on the theme of climate change. The first point to make is that it was truly spectacular! None can deny the artistic merit or the professionalism with which it was done. I would have enjoyed the spectacle in and of itself. But was this the right setting for it? And what business is this of the body of Christ? Should sacred places be used for so overtly a political campaign?
My own feelings are that the show, whilst not wicked or profane as some are suggesting, was certainly misguided. Rather typical of that modernist expression of faith, what its champions called the “Spirit of Vatican II” (because it is not actually faithful to V2!) A vision that ever seems to centre on this life at the expense of the one to come. I have no idea whose idea it was. Probably some bigwig in the Vatican we normal folk on the ground have never heard of. But here are the questions I am left with…
- Why was not a single devotional image used? The setting surely demands at least a mention of the spiritual element?
- Why back a political ideology? Did Pope Francis not stress that the church should not become another NGO?
- Is it prudent to back a controversial ideology when alternative evidence might suggest it is flawed?
- Yesterday was the feast of the Immaculate Conception? Is there a danger that the show eclipsed the feast?
- Why was the manger plunged into darkness whilst the agenda of the world was lit up?
- The only religious symbol was a woman in a burqa. Was this sensitive given the plight of Christians in the Middle East?
- What does a partnership with the World Bank, public supporters of abortion, say? Do we no longer care about pro-life issues?
- Does the church have any business in campaigns better suited to governments and world organisations? We have a higher calling.
What do you think? Am I being rigid in my belief that sacred places should be left as holy space? Was this actually a brilliant PR stunt to grab the world’s attention? Or am I correct in my feelings of uneasiness? Would a different location have been better? And if it was a hymn of creation, as some claim, why was the creator himself absent and not mentioned?