<em>The Saint John’s Bible</em> on display in Darling Library on Wednesday, Sept. 23.
The Saint John’s Bible on display in Darling Library on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

APU Library Helps ‘Illuminate the Mission’ during Pope’s Historic U.S. Visit

by Kayla Johnston ’16

Azusa Pacific University joined more than 50 institutions across the country displaying The Saint John’s Bible during Pope Francis’s weeklong visit to the United States, turning the Bible to a different page each day in a symbolic act of unity among Christians.

“It was such an exciting opportunity to partner with other institutions in Christian unity to share the mission of love that Pope Francis has initiated,” said Luba Zakharov, librarian and curator of special collections and rare books at APU.

Pope Francis began his historic visit to the United States on Tuesday, September 22, with stops in Washington, DC, New York City, and Philadelphia. During the visit, Francis made the first-ever address to Congress by a Pope, one of several speeches he delivered during his time in the States, where he emphasized care for the poor and marginalized, as well as environmental stewardship.

The page-turning event, “Illuminating the Mission: 7 Days, 7 Pages,” was designed to show support for the Pope’s mission during his journey to America, sending the message that Christian brothers and sisters across the country stand in solidarity with him.

On Monday, September 21, one day before the Pope’s arrival in Washington, DC, The Saint John’s Bible was opened to the first page. Inside the rotunda of Darling Library on APU’s West Campus, the story of creation in Genesis took center stage. Held under glass for 24 hours, the brightly colored, 2-foot-long, 3-foot-wide, handwritten pages were visible to students, faculty, and staff as they passed by throughout the day.

Each day that week, at exactly 11:20 a.m., a new page was turned simultaneously at APU and at participating institutions across the country. The institutions were encouraged to integrate a short devotional coinciding with the passage of the day.

Scott Rosen, librarian for Marshburn Library on East Campus, was charged with turning the page at APU on Wednesday, September 23. “What an honor that we can all be here to experience this,” Rosen said as he began reading from the daily devotional. As he turned to Exodus for the day’s passage on the Ten Commandments, Rosen encouraged those gathered around to touch the pages of the text. “This Bible is meant to be experienced—our DNA blends with the text in order to create a oneness and an understanding between the reader and the message,” he said.

The Saint John’s Bible is a modern, illuminated manuscript—the product of a 15-year collaboration pioneered by Donald Jackson, one of the world’s foremost calligraphers and senior scribe to Queen Elizabeth’s Crown Office at the House of Lords in London. Jackson led a team of scribes and artists to create The Saint John’s Bible, the first handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century.

The Library of Congress was gifted a seven-volume set of The Saint John’s Bible at a special ceremony with Pope Francis on Capitol Hill on September 24, demonstrating the significance of the text.

The weeklong event ended Sunday, September 27, when the Pope departed the United States for Rome, but a single volume of The Saint John’s Bible is forever stored within the walls of Azusa Pacific University. The Bible arrived at APU on loan in July 2013, and the university has since committed to acquire the volume, ensuring its beautiful imagery and words—the biblical foundation for the Pope’s message of love, hope, and hospitality—are accessible for years to come.