A stunning image of Christ forms the centrepiece of a collection of rare art treasures on show at the Vatican Pavilion at Expo 2000 opening in Hanover on Thursday. The Mandylion, a 6th century picture on cloth - venerated for centuries as a true depiction of Jesus - comes from the Pope's private chapel in Rome. This is the first time it will be seen by a wider public. The exhibition has been designed and built by Colin Morris Associates - a small South London firm who specialise in organising exhibitions for museum and art treasures. Director Colin Morris said they were thrilled to win the contract. "We were asked to design something on the major themes of Pope John Paul's papacy, Colin explained. "There is a photo exhibition in the outer ring of the building that comprises five showcases and visualises the topics of Peace and Justice, Women, Children, Family and Human Dignity. Each of these also display a Vatican work of art - so there is an Angel from Antonio Rosellini's 15th century school, a 2nd century young woman, a first century child playing with a goose, a portrait bust of Cato and Portia and Michelangelo's Pieta for Vittoria Colonia. "In this Millennium year, all the Vatican art treasures on display round the world were recalled to Rome," Colin said. "In order to bring them to Hanover, the Vatican Pavilion was turned into an official Vatican residence for the duration of the show." Other areas of the exhibition include four life size sculptures by contemporary artists from Africa, Asia, America and Europe. Colin said: "They are supposed to represent humankind as a whole and underscore the world-embracing character of the exhibition. A stele rounds off this section with the words 'Man is the way of the church - Christ is the way of man' in six languages." The programme of events accompanying the exhibition cover the themes of Eastern Europe, family, Women, Children, Peace and Justice, Human Rights and Human Dignity. A series of speakers from church, the arts, politics, science and society will be holding discussions and talks on these themes. Mr Morris said: "The Pavilion is the Holy See's contribution to highlighting the religious dimension of human existence and the mission resulting from that the shape the world in accordance with human dignity. "The Pope has always pointed out that the Holy Year implies a special commitment to make people aware of social and human inequalities. The Holy See wants to place the campaigning of the Church and the Pope for humane development in peace and justice at the centre of its Expo contribution and sensitise Expo visitors to the problems people have. When the exhibition finishes the Pavilion is being transported to the Latvian city of Liepaja, where it will be rebuilt as a church. Colin Morris is not a Catholic, but he said: "Since I've been working on the exhibition over this past year, I've been going to Mass at Westminster Cathedral every week. I think I'm half a convert."' If you would like to take a virtual visit round the Vatican pavilion, visit their website on: www.expo-vatican.de.
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