Expo 2010 has a little bit of everything, but it sure doesn’t have one of these.

I was working up an article on Expo 2010 (World’s Fair) a few weeks ago when – by accident – I came across (and then purchased) this vintage postcard showing the Vatican City pavilion from the 1964/65 New York City World’s Fair.

And the back side (click to enlarge for text).

No surprise, despite signs – once again! – of warming Sino-Vatican relations, Vatican City won’t be exhibiting in Shanghai. And frankly, that’s a pity. After all, in 1964, they not only had a pavilion, they had Michelangelo’s friggin’ Pieta exhibited inside of the pavilion (fyi: no longer impressed that the Danes have lent the Little Mermaid to Expo 2010). So, unlike Expo 2010’s tacky exhibits, promotional films, and endless rounds of 4-D programming (wind! rain! in your face!), that’s something (an artistic masterpiece of the very first order) that might’ve been worth waiting in line for three hours to see.

Which begs the question: just how often has the Holy See shown up for an Expo?

In fact, it takes only a brief search to learn that 64/65 wasn’t the only instance of Vatican participation at an Expo. So far as I’ve been able to determine, the Vatican also showed up for Expo 67 in Montreal, Expo 88 in South Brisbane (!), Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany (complete with the Shroud of Turin – the Vatican sure knows its crowd pleasers! photos here), and Expo 2008 in Zaragoza Spain (info here, Papal letter thanking donors and volunteers, here). On the flip side, they were most definitely not present at Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan (proof, here). So what conclusions can be drawn from this? Pretty much none. I’ve got a call into the Vatican Press Office to see if they were invited to Expo 2010 – though I’m not holding my breath for an answer (and no, I’m not contacting the Shanghai Expo Bureau). The fact that they weren’t at Expo 2005 tells me that they probably prefer to attend European and North American expos (and Australian Expos). Then again, it’s hard to imagine that they would’ve passed up the diplomatic and evangelical opportunity presented by the Shanghai Expo. That is all.


  1. Wow, thanks for the memory…I was seven years old in 1964 and went to the NYC fair and saw the Pieta. I remember it as beautiful. And I also remember that to see it you stood on a conveyor belt of sorts – like the people movers in airports now, but in 1964 it was totally cool and modern – and went into this special room where it was. The statue slowly drifted by, from left to right (was the background blue?..). It left quite an impression. I was also impressed by the dinosaur exhibit put on by Sinclair Oil company….

  2. Wow, of all the things I just learned here, I’m most blown away by the fact that there was an Expo in Spain in 2008 and I had no idea.

  3. That would really be something if they’d been invited…but from what I can gather, there’s even more media and popular bias against Catholicism in China than there is in the English-speaking world (if you can believe that! 🙂

  4. Sam do I understand your comment correctly that you rode a conveyor belt past the pieta???

  5. Janet,
    Yes, or at least that is my memory from 46 years ago! People stood on a moving walkway and passed through the room where the Pieta was on display…

  6. I was 11 when I saw the Pieta at the NY expo. It this story also brings back memories.

  7. It only shows that “religion” is a great bussiness and the Vatican do not show itself in Asia because they do know that their “product” has little acceptance there.

  8. Marco – A dumb comment that would be deleted if I wasn’t in a better mood. Religion – and Christianity, in general – is the fastest growing social movement in China today. Well over 1/3 of China’s population identifies with a religion – a population well in excess of the total population of the United States.

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