Rorate Caeli

Church and State together for beauty and the good of Mankind: President of Gabon supports new Church for Traditional Roman Rite

Communiqué of the Presidency of the Gabonese Republic - January 20, 2015 

Libreville, January 20, 2015 - Thanks to the vision and the personal support of the President of the Republic, not only the Catholics of Libreville, but all Gabonese - known for their love of beauty and the arts - will soon enjoy a masterpiece of architecture at the STFO district: the parish church of Notre Dame de Lourdes and its façade decorated with blue tiles.

This new church, whose construction began a few years ago, is the work of a young priestly fraternity, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, founded 25 years ago in Gabon by Monsignor Gilles Wach, with the support of Abp Cyriaque Obamba, then Bishop of Mouila.

This sacred building has already attracted many followers of the neighborhood and the whole city who especially appreciate the beauty of the Latin liturgy and Gregorian chant.

According to the wish of the Archbishop of Libreville Basile Mvé Engone, who established it as a parish in 2008, the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes became a religious and cultural center of life for many, and participates fully in the vitality the church of Gabon, including through humanitarian projects from which all can benefit.

A decisive step towards the completion of this new church will be the finalization of the facade, made possible through a personal gift from the Head of State, who, with this generous gesture, wanted to contribute to the construction of a masterpiece of art and faith in the midst of the Gabonese capital.

The gesture of the President is not only an act of gratitude to this young community, that has worked for 25 years in our country, but also a wider appreciation of all the action of the Catholic Church in Gabon, as well as an important contribution to the attractiveness of the Gabonese capital, both for our citizens and for foreign tourists.

Monsignor Gilles Wach, founder and Prior General of the Institute of Christ the King, sent his Vicar General, Monsignor Rudolf Michael Schmitz, and the head of sacred art of the same Institute, Father Alexander Willweber - decorated for his work art by Pope Benedict XVI - to take care of this unique work of art.

These two Germans presented the façade project to the Head of State two years ago and monitored the progress of work with Canon Bertrand Bergerot, the young parish priest.

The extraordinary beauty of the facade consists of harmony between a Roman classical architecture and traditional tiles manufactured in Portugal.

These tiles, made and painted by hand, have different expressive scenes. The central panel represents the Adoration of the Child Jesus by the Magi. It is surrounded by the patron saints of the Institute, as well as great archangels Michael and Raphael, who seem to keep the church gate. The whole is crowned by a representation of the Annunciation of great sweetness.

The colors (blue, white and yellow) are characteristic of such tiles, which have been used for the decoration of churches since the 16th century. The drawing, designed by Father Willweber, integrates religious motifs that are well known with men, animals and African plants. The ensemble reflects a rare elegance and beauty that speak to every heart.

By the foresight of the Head of State, Libreville is enriched with a unique monument accessible to all.

The workers will soon begin work on the bell tower which will also be covered with tiles, a work which is the fruit of an international collaboration of architects, craftsmen and workers, mostly Gabonese. Father Willweber is already very satisfied with the result: "I am very grateful to the Head of State and to my superiors for allowing me to make this jewel in Gabon and the Gabonese!"

The opening of the facade is planned for next August in the presence of [President] Ali Bongo Ondimba, a cardinal of the Roman curia, the Archbishop of Libreville and all the friends of the parish.

Many already expect further work within the church, in the same style: Our Lady of Lourdes will become a reference point in the heart of the capital for art lovers around the world and a new gem for Libreville.

[Tip: Tradinews, original version in French at Le Gabon Émergent]