Italy .Botticcino November 8 2009 .
Pope Benedict XVI visited Botticcino Italy on November 8, 2009 for the renaming ceremony of the Botticcino Sera Church where newly canonized, Saint Arcangelo Tadini lived and dedicated his life. The Yuroz painting commissioned by the Vatican, honoring Saint Tadini, "Compassion of light" was blessed by the Pope in the church, where it will permanently hang among the renaissance Masters.
Thousands of people from around the world flocked to the streets of Botticcino to be a part of this historical event. Rainy weather could not stop the crowds from lining up behind the barricades in the wee hours of the morning. As the 9 a.m. hour neared, the streets were packed with people holding banners, flags and signs welcoming their beloved "Papa" as he is called in Italy. Children's choirs along with the local church choir filled the moist morning air with angelic songs, and the church bells ringing to announce the hours of the morning made things even more magical. The excitement was in the air.
This event was planned six months prior when Pope Benedict XVI held the big ceremony in the Vatican. Five new Saints were canonized that day, and one of the newly canonized saints was Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912). Tadini spent many years serving God as the local priest in the Botticcino Sera Church. His dedication to his community had an enormous impact on many families who still live in Botticcino today. The house where he worked and lived is preserved as a museum to share the story of this remarkable human being. Through his strong beliefs and religious foundation he was able to approach people to help them and give them hope.
Just before 10 a.m. the sound of the choir heightened, the bells rang out and the frenzied cheers of the crowd joined together...the Pope had arrived! Benedict XVI arrived in his white "Popemobile" surrounded by security and bodyguards along with many cardinals. He gently raised his hand to the masses as a blessing to all of us, and then was escorted with a large white umbrella, to shelter him from the rain, inside church where Yuroz and seven other dignitaries were waiting to greet His Holiness.
" This is the artist Papa. He is from America and he donated the painting to us." Don Raphael introduced Yuroz to Pope Benedict XVI. With a warm and gentle move, the Pope offered his hand to Yuroz and they shook hands "I have heard many good things about your art" the Pope said "Thank you your holiness" responded Yuroz.
The Pope moved forward and stood in the middle of the church, where on the large colorful carpet there was a small low bench for Pope to pray. Outside and inside the church everything got very quiet. Pope Benedict XVI knelt down to pray in front of the Yuroz painting dedicated to Tadini,"The light of compassion" The cardinals and everyone in the church did the same. After a couple of minutes, Pope raised his head and kept looking at the painting. "Bellisomo" was the word that he used to express his approval.
Everyone stood up and walked back a little to see the painting with a little distance. An expression of happiness and admiration was glowing on the Pope's face. He started moving towards the exit of the church and before leaving he was presented with a little gift. "Papa this is a personal present for you from Yuroz, pointing to the oil painting said Don Raphael, the priest of the Botticcino Sera church.
Yuroz painted a special painting for Pope Benedict XVI, titled "The Holy Family" knowing that he is a big collector of art.
As the Pontiff emerged from the church, the silence was broken with the cheers of the excited crowd. The Pope raised his hand and Thanked and blessed everyone for their hard work.
As the security encouraged the Pope to walk toward his Pope mobile, the Pope had a mind of his own and made a little loop around the car to reach out to the hundreds of school children lined up crying "We love you Papa" he walked along the ribbons that cordoned off the area and touched many of the children's outstretched hands and patted their heads before getting into his car and slowly driving away under the cheers of the crowd, and all the while the bells rang out in honor of the newly named Arcangelo Tadini Church. After the Pope departed, the doors of the church opened up and the crowds filed in. Some came in because they were freezing, but most of them from excitement. Excited to see the newly blessed painting by Yuroz honoring their native saint and excited to have the first mass in their newly renamed church.
Now as an artist, one of the best signs of appreciation for my work happened while I was in Botticcino, when I had the opportunity to see the people from the City come in and look at my painting. They would stand and stare for w long time, then slowly go down on their knees and start praying. While I was in the Church, several times people came to me to congratulate me by taking my hand and calling me Maestro!
Perhaps a moment should be taken to tell you how this journey began. It all started late one night whenYuroz was sitting in front of his computer and received a call from a very good friend of his, and talented Architect, Aram Alajajian, who quickly said, "Where are you? The Padre is looking for you. He has important news for you from the Vatican. Call him right away, this is his number" and he gaveYuroz a phone number somewhere in Europe. Padre's name is Raphael Minassian. He is a man in his late fifties, well groomed with a very soft smile and alert lively eyes. He never raises his voice, unless he is speaking to his family or his single employee by the name of Tigran. Tigran works as an assistant to the Padre in Telepache, which is a television program that airs live from the Vatican to Armenians all over the world.
Yuroz said the first time he shook Padre Raphael's hand was in Glendale California where he was supervising the building of an Armenian Church with his friend Aram. In the middle of construction, he was invited to look at the ceiling of the Church, which would tell the stories of the Armenians through Biblical scenes. Padre's charm and warm hand shake was definitely a good start for a friendship. Yuroz came to know Padre as a man who spoke seven languages, writes Jazz and Spiritual music, deals with construction issues, raises money for the church, and so many more things that he realized he was not an average Armenian Priest...and he wasn't! Soon their shared appreciation for music and art brought them closer. Padre visited Yuroz' studios in Los Angeles and his introduction to Yuroz' Human Rights Mural sparked ideas to do something larger in Europe. Yuroz said of the Padre, "Here we are many years later and I am still not sure of exactly what the Padre does, but I know he is everywhere, doing everything with the hope of making the world a better place by helping as many people as he can while serving God. It is something that we both believe in and try to accomplish in our own way." Their paths crossed again when Yuroz shared the idea of taking the Human Rights Mural on a European tour. While vacationing in Rome with his family, Yuroz decided to call the Padre to say hello. The next thing he knew, he and his family were spending the week with the Padre. He was indeed the ultimate tour guide, and his kindness, humor, and passion rubbed off on them all. The morning after his first meeting with the family, the Padre called to tell them that they had a family meeting with a very special Cardinal in the Vatican. They were tourists on Monday, and on Friday they were walking up the back stairs of the Vatican for an audience with the priest they called the "RedPope." There was the introduction to the Vatican...4 years later, the call was placed for the first commission. Now we are back in Botticcino, and we are inside the beautiful new church.
There must be a thousand people inside the church, sitting, kneeling, standing along the walls, peeking through every doorway with the hope of getting in. The mass is beautiful, and shared by a host of priests, cardinals, and a two special guests...the padre who is actually Monsignor Raphael, and the artist Yuroz. The crowd settles in and the Mass begins. The choir sang beautifuly, the church was truly magnificent, and the pride of the community was embracing the crowd. Don Raphael spoke first and welcomed everyone. He then introduced the Padre, whom with permission, spoke in English, and welcomed the visitors who had come from many parts of the world to be there that day, including the "Americans." Our friends and collectors hailed from Norway,Guatemala, Armenia, Greece, China, Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, California, Boston, Florida, and many other places. We listened, we prayed, we stood in awe when the Cardinals, Priests, Nuns, parishioners, and guests, stopped to acknowledge what Yuroz had created, and Yuroz being the very humble man that he is thanked everyone and asked that the mass continue. After mass, we were invited guests of the Priest and the Church and were taken for a lunch to include tastes of the area. It was delicous and varied. We all ate with ravenous appetites since we had all been up at the crack of dawn without a chance to dine. A poem was written and read by one of the lovely ladies of Botticcino, and translated...Yuroz has a fairly good understanding of Italian, and was very touched by the delicate beauty of her prose. After lunch we toured the town's very own "modern" winery.
Of course after sampling the vino at lunch, some of us just enjoyed being there more than others! After a long and surreal day of magical moments, we boarded our bus and headed back to the hotel in Brescia to rest and prepare for the evening's festivities. The restaurant was in a lively area of Brescia and we had a private room (interestingly enough it was called the Pope room).
The table was set for 37 people and everyone found their seat and shared a wonderful evening of good food, wine, and fantastic speeches from the priests, the architects, a few of the guests, and the highlight coming from Yuroz himself. Yuroz has a way with words, he speaks from the heart, he has a warmth that exudes from his soul, and a wicked sense of humor. Each of us felt as though he was speaking to us personally, and we walked away feeling that we had fed more than our bodies and left a painting behind to inspire many others to come.