Vatican City

Sistine Chapel has power to 'move souls'

John Paul and Benedict believers in artists' vision

Sistine Chapel has power to 'move souls'

Vatican City, March 5 - The writings of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI show they are believers in the power of art to move men's souls. "Here, at the foot of this magnificent polychrome Sistine Chapel, is where the cardinals - a community responsible for passing on the keys to the kingdom - meet. Here is where they gather. And Michelangelo envelops them in his vision to this day", John Paul II wrote in his 2003 Polish-language poem titled Roman Triptych. The verses resound today in all their significance as the cardinals gather in conclave under Michelangelo's frescoed ceiling to elect Saint Peter's new successor. Writing his rules on how the next pontiff should be elected in 1996, Wojtyla specified that "the election shall continue to take place in the Sistine Chapel, where everything conspires to feed the consciousness of the presence of God, before whose judgment each one of us must one day appear". The vision of Michelangelo's Last Judgment and the vault with the Creation of Adam reappear in the middle chapter of the Roman Triptych. "The race in whose hands the endowment of the keys is entrusted meets here, letting itself be surrounded by... the vision Michelangelo left us", John Paul II wrote. "It was so in August and then October of the memorable year of the two conclaves, and so it shall be again, when the need will arise after my death. Michelangelo's vision must speak to them on that occasion". The introduction to the Triptych was written by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and his words today appear all the more eloquent to those whose job it is to pick his successor. "The contemplation of the Last Judgment is perhaps the most moving part of the Triptych", the future Benedict XVI wrote in 2003. "From the pope's internal vision, the memory of the August and October 1978 conclaves emerges anew. As I was also present, I know how we were exposed to those images at the hour of the great decision, how they spoke to us; how they insinuated the greatness of our responsibility into our very souls".

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