Rushdie hailed at Vatican artists exhibition in Dublin

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A senior Irish Vatican official has stressed the importance of supporting artists like Salman Rushdie who tell the truth, which can sometimes be uncomfortable for the general public.

The secretary general of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Bishop Paul Tighe, was speaking at the opening of an exhibition of the collections of three Irish artists in Dublin who also have works on display in the Vatican.

He asked those attending the opening of the exhibition on South William Street to take a moment to pause, reflect or pray for Mr Rushdie.

British author Salman Rushdie was stabbed at a literary event in New York State yesterday and is now on a ventilator.

Salman Rushdie is currently on a ventilator after being attacked on stage

Bishop Tighe emphasized the need for artists’ voices and their contributions to the world.

He urged parishes across Ireland to encourage local artists to work with the Catholic Church. He cited St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford – which hosts arts events – as an example of this kind of cooperation.

Asked about the changes in the Catholic Church due to the synodal path announced by Pope Francis, Bishop Tighe acknowledged that the synod was part of larger discussions in the Vatican.

“Our main interest (in culture) is in people who would not fit into the category of believers or people of faith. We would tell anyone following a synodal path to listen to outside voices.”

Bishop Tighe said that while some people may seem critical of the Church, they may have a lot to say.

On the Irish Synodal Pathway, he noted that his colleague, Sr Nathalie Becquart, consultant to the Synod of Bishops, was recently in Ireland speaking to the Irish Bishops.

He said Sr Becquart was “very impressed with what was happening” in Ireland and there was “an openness to change”.

John Behan, Carmel Mooney and Eve Parnell are the three Irish artists featured in the exhibition which opened in the newly refurbished Assembly House building on South William Street in Dublin.

Artist Eve Parnell with another drawing from her collection

Each also has pieces of their work on display in the Vatican.

Artist Eve Parnell’s work is a drawing of Bernini’s sculpture of Fortitude. She focused on the justice that “appears” behind the sculpture.

The drawing was placed in a small room in what she described as a 1930s-style building on Via della Conciliazione.

It is also a room with a library, a table and two chairs; where cardinals meet journalists. The chair in which the Cardinal sits also faces the photo of Eve Parnell.

Artist Carmel Mooney also has a piece in the Vatican of the Murano glass Nativity. It was purchased by the Vatican when Benedict was pope. His work currently exhibited in Dublin is the prototype of this nativity scene.

Murano Glass Nativity Scene by Carmel Mooney

When Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979, John Behan was among the artists who marked the occasion.

A friend of the poet Seamus Heaney – who had written a poem about St Francis – Mr Behan decided to create a bronze sculpture called St Francis and the Birds.

Upon discovering that three artists had their works in the Vatican, documentary filmmaker Maebh O’Regan curated the exhibition.

She explained, “I contacted Bishop Tighe and told him that I was making a film.

“I walked out, expecting a soundbite, and he set aside an entire morning and was generous with his time and said he’d be back when the show [opened].”


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