Published in this Easter season, on the feast of the Annunciation (March 25), Pope Francis's Apostolic Letter, "Splendour of Light Eternal" (Candor Lucis aeternae) is a remarkable document, an exhortation to read, study, and teach Dante's Divine Comedy, and as Pope Francis writes, to become Dante's "companions on the journey."
The Letter reviews preceding papal letters on Dante (by Benedict XV, Saint John Paul II, Paul VI and Benedict XVI), and incisively discusses Dante's life and his poem. It contains many insights; for example, particularly noteworthy are the sections on human desire, on freedom, on the "three women of the Comedy," as is the final invitation to consider how Dante's poem "raises provocative questions for our own time."
The Pontifical Council for Culture and the 700th anniversary of Dante's Death
On the occasion of the seven-hundredth anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri (Florence 1265–Ravenna 1321), the Pontifical Council for Culture has established an organizational committee, chaired by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, for the creation and promotion of initiatives aimed at celebrating the great poet.
The commemorations started on March 25—also coinciding with the "Dantedì," or Dante Day, promoted by the Italian government—with the publication of the Apostolic Letter of Pope Francis. Over the course of the year, various events will be organized in collaboration with the Vatican Apostolic Library, the Vatican Museums, the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology and the "Cortile dei Gentili":
- On March 25, on the occasion of the publication of the Apostolic Letter, a first edition of the virtual exhibit "Viaggiare con Dante" ("Traveling with Dante") will be presented, curated by the Vatican Apostolic Library and promoted by Dante committee and the "Cortile dei Gentili". The exhibit will allow all users and enthusiasts to access for the first time, directly from their computer, manuscripts, ancient books, engravings, and Dante-themed medals, which cover a period of time ranging from the end of the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. In the coming months, the "Viaggiare con Dante" exhibit will be continuously enriched with new elements.
- The Vatican Museums will subsequently remember the great Poet through a virtual educational project called "Dante in the Vatican Museums", which will highlight all the works of the Museums that refer, in some way, to the figure and work of the great poet.
- On May 28, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Dante Organizing Committee, will hold a conference in Florence (Basilica of S. Croce, 5.00 pm) entitled "'All'etterno dal tempo' (Paradiso XXXI, 38): The Theology of Dante".
- In mid-June, the "Cortile dei Gentili," in collaboration with the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology, will organize an evocative cultural event (by invitation only) at the Catacombs of San Callisto. It will be about experiencing a real journey into Dante's Comedy, which four well-known and appreciated actors (Carlo Verdone, Margherita Buy, Alessandro Haber and Nancy Brilli) will read and interpret, choosing some of the most significant passages and characters.
- On September 12, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi will conclude the celebrations of the Dante anniversary in Ravenna with a conference at 11.30, preceded by the Eucharistic celebration at 9.30.
- On November 25-26, the Dante Committee will organize an academic conference at Roma Tre University, focusing on the figure of Dante and on the great eschatological questions he proposes. The conference will be attended by experts and scholars of the work of the Florentine poet.