Water for life

A boy at a fountain in St. Peter's Square.VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has just announced a press conference next Monday to unveil its pavilion at this summer’s Expo Zaragoza 2008. Like the international exposition, the theme of the Vatican pavilion will be water.

It’s a topic that has appeared with increasing frequency on the Vatican’s radar in recent years, with Vatican agencies and academies looking at the technical and moral aspects of water distribution around the world. Pope Benedict has called water an “inalienable right” and warned that shortages could fuel conflicts.

Heading the lineup at the press conference May 19 will be Cardinal Renato Martino, whose Pontifical Justice and Peace Council prepared a document for the 2003 World Water Forum declaring that access to safe water was a right-to-life issue.

The exposition on the theme “Water and Sustainable Development” will run from June 14-Sept. 14 in the northern Spanish city of Zaragoza, and it marks the first time the Vatican has participated as a full member in such an event. The 6,000-square-foot Vatican pavilion will offer visitors a three-stage reflection on “Water, the essence of life”, “The spirituality of water” and “Water for life.”

The word is that the Vatican will integrate works of art into the exhibit, including some from the Vatican Museums. We’ll get details next week, but I’m just thinking … The Flood and The Parting of the Red Sea are frescoes, and they won’t be going anywhere. The colossal statue of the Nile? Too heavy. Representations of Christ’s baptism would fit in with the spirituality theme.

There’s one Vatican Museum tapestry that might be perfect, in its own way. It shows Maffeo Barberini (who became Pope Urban VIII in 1623), checking the level of Lake Trasimeno in central Italy, where he was overseeing a project to control flooding. Then, as now, water was vital.

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