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The good deed that doesn't cost a euro

· The last lira for an alliance between solidarity and culture ·

It is without doubt a catchy slogan: L’ultima lira: Una buona azione non costa nulla ("The last lira. A good deed costs nothing"). It was coined to promote a vast campaign to collect Italian lire, before they definitively lose their value at the end of February 2012. But I mainly want to emphasize the positive connection that is created here between the different types of solidarity which are being promoted by the campaign, which involves Prosolidar (the foundation of the Italian banking sector, bringing together trade unions and the Italian Banking Association in support of charitable projects), along with four other institutions: UNHCR (the UN agency for refugees), Terre des Hommes, Emergency and the Vatican Library. The solidarity I refer to creates a perhaps unprecedented alliance—certainly a promising and timely one—, between social and cultural initiatives, so that the wide range of human needs which are targeted by this solidarity comes to include also a cultural institution. If you participate in the campaign—so goes the announcement—"you will be supporting the Vatican Library's project to make the old Sistine Hall into a reading room: the thousands of scholars from around the world who every year freely visit this trove of treasures belonging to all of humanity will make a contribution to a true integration between peoples and cultures." Other recipients will be the Pediatric Centre operated by Emergency in Bangui (Central African Republic); the UNHCR project to support of thousands of famine refugees in Somalia; the "Case del Sole" project of Terre des Hommes, which supports over three thousand children in seven countries around the world; and Prosolidar's promotion of the use of assets seized by the authorities from organized crime for social causes.

I could refer readers to the website <www.lultimalira.it>, where they will find all the relevant information; or simply remind them that, to participate in this campaign, they only need to collect in an envelope the old lire (banknotes or coins) which they find in their homes and take them to the bank by January 31, 2012. I might also reproduce some of the expressions which the posters put into the mouths of the people depicted on the banknotes, as a friendly way of enticing people to get involved in this "good deed that costs nothing:" "Before I retire, give me one last chance," says Maria Montessori from the 1,000-lire banknote; "The first fundraising campaign that doesn't ask you for a single euro," promises Vincenzo Bellini, with obvious sincerity, from the 5,000-lire banknote; "A banknote without value is of immense value," sagely opines Alessandro Volta from the 10,000-lire banknote.

However, I would like to focus on the unique configuration of this initiative which, despite its novelty, seems to me to be faithful to the most genuine traditions of the Vatican Library. These traditions are indeed rooted in the most authentic humanism, from which they draws the conviction that research and study—with all the rigor they require—are anchored in the indispensible point of reference which is man, his rationality, his spiritual reality, his dignity. The humanistic spirit, which permeates cultural research, renders the Vatican Library attentive to mankind, capable of universality and open to all encounters with humanity. I believe that the concrete experience of collaboration with institutions of international solidarity has been able to leverage this deep connection; and those who participate in this campaign will become aware of the great and highly significant value of such an "alliance for mankind." The institutions involved—I think I can say this also on their behalf—have perceived and experienced this in the harmonious cooperation which has been established between them all.

All that remains is to rummage through the drawers looking for the "last lira," and to get on with a "good deed" which will be a providential "alliance for mankind."

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