2013 – oil on canvas, 150×200 cm
“I leave from where the apostle arrived”. Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict could have continued: “I renounce my Cloak and share it with the people”. It was a moving moment when he announced on February 11, 2013 that he was going to resign from his duties, the first time in 700 years that a Holy Father returned his Cloak to his brothers. For me this noble gesture is a sign of humility, a renouncement of pomp and circumstance, which are the material companions of our life. It is also a gesture of sharing, sharing our joys and undertakings with others. It reminds me of Saint Francis, who in front of a beggar gives him his Cloak with the words “this is yours; I was only the temporary custodian”.
None of our material goods really belong to us; we only borrow them for the time we spend on earth. So it’s really not their possession which counts but their use, which should make it easy to share them! If we would respect this insight, we could finally hope to revolutionize our economic system and arrive at a bio-sustainable economy, in place of our frenetic course to possess and plunder all natural resources. In his book “Prosperity without Growth”, Tim Jackson explains convincingly that prosperity has to do with our ability to flourish, physically, psychologically and socially, and not with the accumulation of material wealth.
A wonderful example of a sharing spirit is Saint Martin of Tours, who cut his Cloak in two and shared it with the beggar. On his voyage from Albenga to Tours his journey took him on the Via Aurelia through what is today Cap Martin, a beautiful spot on the French Riviera. To commemorate this event the city installed my “Cloak of Saint Martin”, the marble Cloak cut in two parts, with a small sculpture of the Saint on its top, on Saint Martin square, overlooking the City of Menton and the Mediterranean.
This takes me back to my Cloak of Conscience and a cherished moment on Saint Peter’s Square in Rome in 2008, when I had the honor of handing a small sample of this work, together with a document about our Conscience project, to Pope Benedict. His encouraging words, followed by a letter, convinced me to create The Chromy Award for other personalities whom we can rightly consider a “Conscience” of our times. Relieved from his Cloak of worldly burdens, installed in his new home in the Vatican Gardens, Papa Ratzinger can now contemplate Michelangelo’s beautiful Dome of Saint Peter’s and Bernini’s columns, as a quiet observer of his Church. Maybe one day he will also be able to observe my Cloak of Conscience, whose marble comes from the same quarry in Carrara where Michelangelo and Bernini created their masterworks.