Studded with columns and boasting a dome that’s one of Rome’s defining icons, St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is indelibly associated with Catholicism and the Pope. Last night, the church has been transformed into a gigantic screen for a light show designed to inspire action against climate change, writes Edward Pentin for The National Catholic Register.
The church was home to a three-hour event called Fiat Lux: Illuminating Our Common Home. Sponsored by the World Bank and a number of humanitarian and philanthropic groups, the show was designed to coincide with the climate talks in Paris.
The show’s website describes the spectacle as “an unprecedented live contemporary public art video projection that will convey to a global audience images of the earth and all of its living creatures.”
To viewers gathered in St. Peter’s Square, this meant images of the natural world, including many endangered species, lighting up the basilica. Pentin notes that it was the first time a light show has taken place on the church’s facade or dome, which was designed by Michelangelo.
Scheduled to coincide with the opening of Pope Francis’ Jubilee “Year of Mercy,” a year-long religious celebration that is expected to draw millions of pilgrims to Rome, the show also highlighted the pontiff’s resolution to sway the course of climate change.
Though the Vatican itself did not fund the event, it was inspired by the Pope’s encyclical urging the world to act on climate change. The Pope, who is becoming as well-known for his role as an activist as his duties as pontiff, has been open in his support of a climate change deal and even sent a pair of his shoes to stand in for him at a large-scale climate change demonstration in Paris.
Not everyone received the light show with a sense of wonder. In another report, Pentin writes that some Catholics found the show “highly inappropriate,” objecting to both its sponsorship and its use of a Catholic symbol as a backdrop for political advocacy.
Controversial or not, you’ve never seen the Vatican quite like this. Here’s how the event looked from St. Peter’s Square: