It is official. The Archdiocese of Monaco has just inaugurated its brand-new headquarters in a key position easily accessible for everyone. The “Agora”, the Monegasque “Maison Diocésaine” (Diocesan House) is the result of the valuable cooperation of the Gouvernement Princier, a panel of skilled builders from JB Pastor construction company under the supervision of the architects Emmanuel Deverini and Raphaël Gilardino, the members of the Diocesan Board and all resident donors that made that dream come true, concurrently with the 18th Anniversary from the Episcopal Ordination of H.E. Bernard Barsi, the Catholic Archbishop of Monaco. The original idea was to gather together in one place the major Diocesan bureau like the one focused on Communication, Culture and Christian Initiation (a range of rituals and sacraments to enter the Christian community, even in adulthood).
But the stylish 7-storey white villa, cleverly rebuilt by keeping most of the exquisite Art Nouveau decorations belonging to the original “Notre-Dame du Rosaire” Sisters’ convent, is something more important. All visitors who attended the Open Day organized last Saturday (17th October 2018) by the Diocese of Monaco could appreciate all this. A total surface of 1,800 m2, including a Chapel, 5 conference rooms, 1 multi-media auditorium, 9 offices, 1 library, 1 archive room, 2 recreation rooms and 2 guest offices are all flooded by a brilliant light at both north and south sides, culminating in the most amazing view over the Principality from the top floor. Taking care of the details, the architectural project aimed at rethinking a new way of lighting indoor environments by choosing bright but soft colours that provide a feeling of harmony and peace of mind, regardless of religious belief as most people said during the opening visit. That seems encouraging “to meet one another doing good”, a universal thought mentioned by Pope Francis at the very beginning of His Pontificate as one of the key mission of the Church of Rome.
After some initial difficulties, from an architectural point of view, in fact, the project team agreed on creating luminous environments through a series of screen printed French windows. Furthermore, the search for the details in the materials used and in all ornaments symbolizing the Catholic message of openness to the World and Universe, as pointed out by Raphaël Gilardino, Interior Designer, conceiver of the internal restructuring. An iconic temporary photo exhibition by Jean-Pierre Debernardi focused on the Cathédrale de Monaco will be enhancing, until the 21st December 2018, the strong relation between art, culture and religion. The name itself, referring to the ancient Greek iconic meeting place, the “Agora”, evokes its socializing dimension open every day of the week to the public of any age, any culture and any religion. H.E. Bernard Barsi (B.B.) pointed out this idea while being interviewed by HelloMonaco.
H.M.: Monseigneur Barsi, whom the “Agora” is addressed to?
B.B.: The Agora is meant to be at the same time a place where people can gather and benefit from all Diocesan services centralized in a single location just to work in close liaison. We would like to send a strong message of the bond that engages everybody in a debate with the whole modern society. Bring people together and open us to the rest of the world: these are our core missions. This new building, designed with solid and fair price materials, will welcome all visitors on those foundations. We were delighted to be visited yesterday (16th November 2018) by H.S.H. the Sovereign Prince, H.S.H. the Princess Charlène and H.R.H. the Princess Caroline.
H.M.: What does the achievement of this project, so eagerly-awaited, represent?
B.B.: This project aims at answering what Pope Francis has repeatedly said since His election as Holy Father. I am very fond of His words about the main role of the Church that has to go in the suburbs of the society. That does not necessarily mean to visit the outskirts geographically speaking but to join people who do not know Christ yet and the Holy books or they are misinterpreting them. I do believe it is important to communicate through the activities held at the Agora the real free-for-allfaces of Christianity with special regard to children and poor people.
H.M.: Is there a special team that is helping you to carry on with this key project of social mission?
B.B.: Surely, we have been generously supported by a technical team, the Monegasque Government and many residents since the very beginning of the idea (2011) and through all the further steps (January 2014: press conference; April 2015: launching of the fund raising; May 2017: groundbreaking ceremony). Without their help, nothing would have been possible and I am sure they will be assisting us to cover the residual debts. Starting from now, 5 people will be in charge of reception, event management and any other service plus I do hope to have the support of many volunteers to contribute in any way. All this is important to guarantee a continuous service from morning till night including the Pastoral Council rendezvous and any other catholic-cultural events and debates that will be disseminated live thanks to an advanced high-tech video system (NDI – Network Device Interface – operated by NEWTek technologies), an important step in the process of Digital Transition across the Country.
Therefore, Agora is going to become a real welcoming home to all Monegasques and visitors who would like to interact on Christian issues in a comfortable and neutral location where user-friendliness and human values can be expressed at the most. Something precious in an increasingly complex society, being aware that “nothing can be done without communication; nothing can be done without love; nothing can be done without hospitality” following Christ’s teachings, as highlighted by Father Julien Gollino, responsible for the Agora.
Communication is then playing a leading role in the Public Relation Action Plan promoted by the Monegasque Catholic Church as expressed to HelloMonaco by Ferxel Fourgon (F.F.), Responsible for Protocol and Communication at the Diocèse de Monaco.
H.M.: Mr Fourgon, which are the main communication targets at the Agora?
F.F.: We really would liketo keep the Agora’s doors open as much as possible. We are ready to address to practicing Catholics, to young people and to all those who are working for the Church within the Diocesan services throughout a series of communication, training and cultural tools and spiritual events like pilgrimages. The Agora is conceived to collect all human forces to work better together. We have realized this since when we started cooperating at short-distance. Everything is just much simpler as the official inauguration held yesterday. Meanwhile, this new Diocesan House is seeking people who are not church goers to get them involved in conferences, debates, cine-club or any other convivial time we organize. We would like to increase the public’s interest by dealing not only with the religious belief but turning also to topical issues in a mutually beneficial relationship. Thus, the leitmotiv of the Agora is to become an access point between who believe and who do not believe in God.
H.M.: What could the Agora symbolize for the Monegasque community?
F.F.: The Agora symbolizes the willingness of the Catholic Church to come out to meet people in order to keep Catholic Faith as well as to go beyond by involving an ever-increasing number of human beings who can be encouraged to visit us thanks to this welcoming atmosphere inspired by evangelical principles. The Agora is then an open space to disadvantaged and elder people who are supported by already existing charity associations. The core idea is to keep everyone in our project, including the economically or metaphorically poorest people. In a modern society, there are many problems to face like social distresses and social or sexual exclusions which is the subject of a new service devoted to families and social matters promoted by the will of the Archbishop. I do hope that the communication side of the Catholic Church will be better placed on head news and media, from now on.
To check more information and/or donate for the Agora please visit the following web site: http://agora.diocese.mc