Rome, 21 April -- In a reciprocal gesture on his first official visit to Rome and the Vatican, the Most Reverend Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, will welcome high papal representatives to a church of the Anglican Communion on 28 April, when he officiates in a service of evening prayer at St.
Rome, 21 April -- In a reciprocal gesture on his first official visit to Rome and the Vatican, the Most Reverend Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, will welcome high papal representatives to a church of the Anglican Communion on 28 April, when he officiates in a service of evening prayer at St. Paul's Within-the-Walls. Johannes Cardinal Willebrands, President of the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity, will lead the Roman delegation, and with the Archbishop of Canterbury will participate in the dedication of the new doors of St. Paul's, the American Anglican-Episcopal Church in Rome.
The ceremony will be held in the presence of 350 invited guests, including officials of the Rome and Italian governments, senior clergy and lay people from Protestant and Roman Catholic churches throughout Europe, and Ambassadors and representatives from among the 74 nations which make up the Anglican Communion. Among these will be Richard Gardner, the new United States Ambassador to Italy.
Also on hand for the ceremony will be the sculptor of the doors, Dimitri Hadzi, currently Visiting Professor at Harvard University's Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. Hadzi, who is well known for his massive monumental works in museums throughout the United States, said in a recent public statement that the doors of St. Paul's Church "are one of my strongest statements ever." Hadzi created the doors to commemorate the meeting over 16 years ago between the 99th Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Geoffrey Fisher, and Pope John XXIII, the first such meeting since the Reformation. The unveiling of the doors is a highlight in the current Archbishop's three-day stay in Rome, during which time he will participate in talks with Pope Paul VI.
THE GREAT DOORS
The Doors of St. Paul's celebrate the historic dialogue between two great streams of Christianity, begun in Rome in 1960 when Pope John XXIII met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the late Dr. Geoffrey Fisher. The four-hundred-year breach between major elements of Christendom was in that moment revealed to be reparable. The following year, the Rt. Rev. Arthur Lichtenberger, then Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, also visited Pope John. The subsequent seventeen years have been marked by a great church-wide expansion of intrafaith dialogue and workshop, including visits between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Arthur M. Ramsey, and the American Presiding Bishop, John E. Hines, as well as the meeting between Pope Paul and Archbishop Donald Coggan which we celebrate now.
When Pope John died in 1963, the whole world was profoundly moved. The spontaneous reaction of the congregation of St. Paul's was a desire to memorialize the steps toward healing which had started during his papacy, and the idea of doors was born. That they would hang on a non-Roman Catholic church in the capital of Latin Christendom would in itself be witness to the great opening to unity that had come in our time.
Church doors have been teaching the message of Christendom for fifteen centuries in Italy. Lorenzo Ghiberti brought the Bible vividly to life for Florentines of the early Renaissance, as had the rougher 12th-century sculptor of San Zeno Major in Verona. Giacomo Manzu's great doors of St. Peter's Basilica are an enduring biographic statement of Pope John XXIII. The works of these artists relate as representational art--as portrayals of events and people in a cultural setting.
However, the doors of St. Paul's posed a unique conceptual problem, because their message springs not from a particular time or place, but from the composite global record of a fragmented Church, now reaching for the ideal of Christian unity. Many accepted religious symbols are prejudiced by the culture in which they grew historically. What would best represent contemporary Christendom's progression from disintegration to integration would be an abstract design, free of the traditional symbols to which representational religious art has been tied.
When the parish decided to commission the new doors, it was fortunate to have as a long-time member of the congregation Dimitri Hadzi, an internationally recognized sculptor of Macedonian origin and Greek Orthodox religious background. His earliest work, "Cain and Abel", reflected the tragedy of Greek civil war in the 1940's, and many of his pieces echo the pain of the world's brokenness. He felt keenly the healing influence of John XXIII and volunteered to be the sculptor of the new doors in thanksgiving for the late pontiff.
Dimitri Hadzi was born in New York in 1921, and educated at Cooper Union and later in Athens and Rome. He has won Fulbright, Tiffany and Guggenheim awards, and his works can be seen in dozens of museums throughout America, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim in New York, the Smithsonian Institution and the Hirshhorn Collection in Washington, D. C. His large-scale architectural sculptures are at Lincoln Center in New York, and at public buildings in Baltimore, Boston and Minneapolis. Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale are among the universities that have included his sculptures in their collections. In 1974, he was the Artist-in-Residence at the American Academy in Rome, and is currently visiting professor at Harvard University.