Asia Galvani * – Venice
A “health and pleasing interconnection between the territory’s resources, human life, activity, on the productive, educative, social, economic and civic levels, care for nature and for creation, respecting the eco-systems and bio-diversity”. These are the words Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, used to describe the Laudato si’ Garden, which rose up in the heart of the Po Delta’s Venice Regional Park. He himself strongly desired that this initiative see the light of day. Present for the inauguration in Rosolina, in the Province of Rovigo on Sunday, 4 October 2020 were the Cardinal and other civic, military and religious leaders. In addition to Rosolina, seven municipalities in the area sponsored it: Ariano nel Polesine, Corbola, Loreo, Porto Viro, Porto Tolle, Taglio di Po.
Sister Alessandra Smerilli, coordinator of the Vatican Covid-19 Committee’s “Economy” task force, explained during the event that the project reveals “a new model of development characterized by respect for the earth and care for each other”. She was also one of the day’s primary coordinators, along with Rosolina’s mayor, Franco Vitale. The Salesian Sister added that it is a sign of how to emerge “better” even from the crisis connected with the coronavirus.
The speakers alternated between people representing various institutions (from Luca Zaia, President of the Region of Venice) and testimonies from others, including that of Cardinal Turkson, Sister Alessandra, “Security” task force coordinator Alessio Pecorario, Beatrice Finh, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Nobel Peace Prize 2017).
Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, the person responsible for the special anniversary Laudato si’ Year and coordinator of the “Ecology” taskforce of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission, wanted to emphasize the “spiritual significance of the garden” during the inauguration, that is, the place “where we are with the Creator, with God Himself”, but also “in community, with the people near us and communion with the earth”. The garden thus becomes a sign of “union with the Creator, union among ourselves and union with the earth and all of the creatures on earth.”
Tenor Francesco Grollo provided the interludes between the various speakers: “Music”, he explained, “is a universal message. It embraces everyone and connects earth and heaven”. Accompanied by the Italian Symphony Rhythmic Orchestra, directed by Maestro Diego Basso, by the Art Voice Academy and Opera House Choirs, he embellished the event with the “Concert for Integral Ecology”, held on a floating platform overlooking the laguna. Those present were captivated by the execution of the pieces “Tu ci sei” (You exist) and “Canto della terra” (Hymn of the Earth), accompanied on the piano by composer Francesco Sartori who wrote the two original pieces inspired by values expressed in Laudato si’. At the end of the performance, members of the orchestra were surprised when they realized that the floating platform had gradually and slowly tilted, following the ripples of the tide. “Nature’s tenderness,” Maestro Basso explained, “accompanied us and brought us where she wanted us to be”.
The pact between humanity and nature
At the end, Cardinal Turkson inaugurated the Laudato si’ Chapel, a Living Chapel, that recalls the one inaugurated in June in Rome’s Botanical Garden. This was done in the presence of a representative of each continent, so as to establish a sort of global pact between humanity and nature. “We wanted the structure to be simple and quaint so as not to invade the beauty and depth that nature offers us by its very being, but that it might be mingled with it,” explains the Laudato si’ Chapel on the Po Delta’s architect Mario Cucinella. The moment in which he illustrated this aspect of the chapel was particularly moving because it was accompanied by an extraordinary execution of Panis Angelicus and by the rose colors of the sunset that everyone there saw.
Reactions from young people
“I am really proud to have this Garden in my own city”, sixteen-year-old Irene Duò from Rosolina declared. She was at the side of Cardinal Turkson and Father Kureethadam during the blessing of the Chapel. Irene continued saying, “I was truly moved when I and the other young people placed a plant in the Cardinal’s hands who then placed it in a small wooden planter. The environmental problem is the most urgent one and during the event I felt strongly responsible for it because I began to understand better that each one of our actions can provide a cleaner environment for those around us”. Twenty-one-year-old Marica Padoan, originally from Treviso who hopes to be a professional photographer, took pictures of the event. “While taking the photos”, she explained, “I became aware of the attention that had been taken to harmoniously place what had been manufactured by people into this Garden. What a gift to discover some of Laudato si’s themes through direct immersion in an extraordinary natural background.”
*Cube Radio – Salesian University Institute, Venice and Verona