ROME — The world needs new maps, guides for the human journey that are focused not on borders, but on what draws all people together and makes them brothers and sisters, Pope Francis said as he inaugurated a map-based exhibit in the Vatican Library.
“Humanity needs new maps to discover the meaning of fraternity, social friendship and the common good,” the pope said Nov. 5 as he opened the library’s new permanent exhibition space and its first exhibit: “Tutti. Humanity on the Way.”
Beginning with an almost 20-foot-long map of the Nile by 17th-century Turkish Ottoman explorer Evliya Çelebi, the exhibit features some of the oldest and most unusual maps in the library’s collection interspersed with new pieces by Pietro Ruffo, a contemporary artist from Rome.
“The dialogue between my work and the terrestrial and celestial maps of different epochs and cultures sketch a humanity that is increasingly interconnected and responsible for the fragile relationship with its ecosystem,” Ruffo said in a statement released by the Vatican Library.
Father Giacomo Cardinali, an official of the library who worked on the exhibit, said it involves a “nongeographical cartography,” in that many of the maps are not just rudimentary — many were never meant to be geographically accurate. “In the course of history, people used the representational scheme of the map not only to describe the Earth objectively,” but also to map their own interior life, ideals and convictions.
Pope Francis praised the library for creating the exhibit space, which was possible thanks to support from the family of the late Kirk Kerkorian, a U.S. businessman and philanthropist.
“We must not neglect to think and speak of beauty, because the human heart does not need bread alone, it does not need only that which guarantees its immediate survival: It also needs culture, that which touches the soul, which brings the human being closer to his profound dignity,” the pope said.
The exhibit, he said, also reflects the fact that culture needs dialogue and encounter to grow.
“Cultures get sick when they become self-referential, when they lose curiosity and openness to the other. When they exclude instead of integrating,” the pope said. “What advantage do we have in making ourselves guardians of borders, instead of guardians of our brothers and sisters? The question God repeats to us is: ‘Where is your brother?’”