(Det talade ordet gäller)
Your Royal Highness Princess Beatrix,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here in Vatican Museum, one of the most prestigious museums of the world.
It is especially gratifying because it is in the occasion of the opening of an exhibition of a very unique collection of etchings and an exquisite oil painting by the great master Rembrandt.
I want to thank you and your excellent staff for arranging this exhibition.
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We all of course know that Rembrandt was Dutch, so you may ask yourselves what the connection to Sweden can be. The story is that Anders Zorn, one of the best and most famous Swedish painters of the late 19th and early 20th century, was a great admirer of Rembrandt. Over a long period of time he systematically collected his etchings. Zorn carefully studied the prints and tried to learn the technique from the Dutch master. As you can see from a few prints by Zorn shown in the exhibition he was quite successful.
Rembrandt - child of a Protestant father and a Catholic mother – worked in a time when religion played a significant role in public life. Still, few Dutch artists in the 1600s were as devoted as Rembrandt to depicting scenes from the Bible.
His biblical images express a deep empathy with the most vulnerable - a beggar, a cripple or a biblical person, Rembrandt depicts every individual with great respect and dignity. It is as if he is speaking to us from the past - reminding us that tolerance and humanism is as much needed today as they have ever been.
This is why this selection of Rembrandt etchings shown in the Vatican Museum is of special relevance for us today. They reflect the compassionate, humanitarian and inclusive message of His Holiness Pope Francis.
This message was heard worldwide and loud and clear during Pope Francis’ recent visit to Sweden for the joint Lutheran/Catholic commemoration of the reformation in the Cathedral of Lund.
Your Royal Highness Princes Beatrix,
I am particularly grateful and honoured by your presence here today. Without the support of the Netherlands this landmark exhibition would not have come about. Your ambassador Jaime de Bourbon Parma, in cooperation with the Netherland’s Government, made an essential contribution by facilitating the loan of an oil painting by Rembrandt from the Kremer Collection.
Thank you very much!
Let me conclude by observing that 2016 is indeed a special year in the relations between Sweden and the Holy See. We were honoured by the historic visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Sweden. Mother Elisabeth Hesselblad was canonized, thereby giving Sweden its first Saint since Santa Brigida 625 years ago. I am here in the Vatican not only to open this beautiful exhibition, but also to take part in a very important two-day workshop on narcotics by invitation from the Pontifical Academies of Sciences.
On the global agenda Sweden and the Holy See is finding common ground in opur fight against human trafficking, narcotics, poverty and violations of human rights and in our joint efforts for sustainable development, a clean environment , peace and human dignity.
Let Rembrandt teach us how to see the greatness in the expression of the faces of the poor, marginalized and vulnerable. Let his art be an inspiration to us to strive for a better world!