Exhibit of historic bibles, artifacts to precede pope's visit

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia Sept. 26 for a two-day visit that will include appearances around the city and on Independence Mall, and conclude with a public Mass Sept. 27 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia Sept. 26 for a two-day visit that will include appearances around the city and on Independence Mall, and conclude with a public Mass Sept. 27 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

The World Meeting of Families and the Museum of the Bible announced Tuesday that they will host a significant exhibition of bibles and other historic scriptural artifacts in the days leading up to Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia next month.

To be called "Verbum Domini II," the exhibition will occupy a 15,000-square-foot space at the Convention Center, adjacent to the "congress" of the World Meeting, from Sept. 21 to 26.

Open to the public, including those not attending the congress, the exhibit will showcase about 80 artifacts. Among them: a first edition of the King James Bible, fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a very early edition of the Psalms, and an illuminated book of hours from the 14th century.

"Its appeal transcends faith tradition," said Robert J. Ciaruffoli, president of the World Meeting of Families 2015, said of the exhibit. He predicted it would be "one of the highlights of a historic week."

The exhibition will consist of eight galleries and 24 display cases in Hall G.

Verbum domini means "word of the Lord" in Latin.

Francis is scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia Sept. 26 for a visit that will include appearances around the city and on Independence Mall, and conclude with a public Mass Sept. 27 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The Museum of the Bible, under construction in Washington and due to open in 2017, is largely the creation of billionaire David Green of Oklahoma City, an evangelical Christian who created and owns the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores.

"To us, there is simply no better moment to expose such a beautiful message - and such beautiful artifacts - to the world than in Philadelphia during Pope Francis' historic visit to the United States," Green, the son of an Assemblies of God preacher, said in a statement.

Green's company was the defendant in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a landmark 2014 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that certain for-profit corporations can be exempted from a law to which its owners object on religious grounds.

At issue was the Green family's objection to a clause in the Affordable Care Act mandating that company health-insurance plans underwrite contraceptive prescriptions for employees who want them.

The exhibit will open one day before the World Meeting congress opens, and close after the congress concludes. The congress is expected to draw about 15,000 people to the Convention Center for lectures and workshops examining and celebrating the role of family in human life and civil society.

Hours of operation for the exhibit have not yet been determined.

Verbum Domini II is one of several traveling exhibits that the Bible Museum is circulating in the United States and abroad while the 430,000-square-foot facility awaits completion, said Steven Embree, exhibit marketing manager for the museum.

He said it will be very similar to a "very well-received" exhibit that the museum created last year in St. Peter's Square in Rome. The Vatican proposed that it be replicated in Philadelphia, Embree said.


doreilly@phillynews.com 856-779-3841