08/31/2021, 09.46
FRANCE – MIDDLE EAST
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Louvre unveils exhibit on Byzantium and Eastern Christianity 'united in diversity'

The Parisian museum opens a ninth exhibition space tomorrow, dedicated to the region's art, history and Christian culture. A response to recent decades of war, violence and destruction. Over the weekend, French President Macron on an official visit to Iraq; in Mosul, with stops at the Clock Church and al-Nuri Mosque.

Paris (AsiaNews) - Tomorrow the Louvre will inaugurate a ninth exhibition space dedicated to Byzantium and Eastern Christianity, just days after French President Emmanuel Macron made an official trip to Iraq, stopping in Mosul, where he visited churches destroyed by Isis.

The opening of the space dedicated to Eastern Christians had been announced last May by the president-director Laurence des Cars, the first woman to head the famous Parisian museum. Charles Personnaz explains in Paris Notre-Dame that the bringing together collections related to Byzantium and Eastern Christianity" heretofore exhibited separately is a "great satisfaction".

The expert notes that "the need" to unite all the treasures of Christian art, history and culture in a single space "is reinforced" by the events that have affected the region "in recent years, from heritage destruction to wars, urbanization and increasing demographic pressure."

This new exhibit, continues Personnaz (director of the Institut national du patrimoine, Inp), will foster "research around the arts of Eastern Christianity" and allow "Eastern communities to exhibit works at the Louvre (icons, manuscripts)" and make them participants "in the dissemination of heritage."

The goal is to enhance the specificity of a cultural era that is nourished by the encounter "between Byzantine art and regional geographic expressions: of Africa in Ethiopia, the Caucasus in Armenia and the Syriac civilization in the Middle East."

"But the most interesting aspect - clarifies the scholar - is to show the unity of Eastern Christianity and at the same time its great diversity,” something many Christian leaders in the region have affirmed in recent years, from Chaldean Patriarch Card. Louis Raphael Sako in Iraq, to Syria ‘s churches which are an example of reconciliation.

The project also provides for the strengthening of the French-speaking and Christian educational network in the Middle East, with the creation of a joint fund between the French State and Œuvre d'Orient that has enabled 140 schools, over a hundred of which are in Lebanon, to support educational activities. Charles Personnaz himself in early January 2019, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron, presented 35 projects to boost French support in protecting the Christian heritage and educational network in the region.

The bonds between the Elysee and the nations of the area is confirmed moreover by the visit made by the French president to Iraq in recent days, which touched on August 29 the northern metropolis of Mosul, once a stronghold of the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis).

Macron visited the ancient clock church, which was half-destroyed by jihadist militias in the first phase of their rule. This is the same place of worship where Pope Francis held the special prayer during his historic visit to Iraq in March, asking Christians to forgive the injustices suffered by Islamic extremists.

After visiting the church, Macron then headed to the historic al-Nuri mosque, from which Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had proclaimed the birth of the "Islamic caliphate" in the summer of 2014 and blown up by militiamen during the Iraqi army's offensive three years later.

 "We are here - said the French president - to express the importance of Mosul and reiterate our appreciation for all the souls that make up Iraqi society" in a reconstruction effort that is proving itself to be "slow, very slow."

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