Works of art, the most exalted expressions of the human spirit, bring us
closer and closer to the divine Artisan  and with good
reason are regarded as the heritage of the entire human family. 
The Church has always held the ministry of the arts in the highest esteem and
has striven to see that "all things set apart for use in divine worship are
truly worthy, becoming, and beautiful, signs and symbols of the supernatural
world."  The Church through the centuries has also
safeguarded the artistic treasures belonging to it. 
Accordingly, in our own times as well, bishops, no matter how hard pressed by
their responsibilities, must take seriously the care of places of worship and
sacred objects. They bear singular witness to the reverence of the people toward
God and deserve such care also because of their historic and artistic value.
It grieves the faithful to see that more than ever before there is so much
unlawful transferal of ownership of the historical and artistic heritage of the
Church, as well as theft, confiscation, and destruction.
Disregarding the warnings and legislation of the Holy See, 
many people have made unwarranted changes in places of worship under the pretext
of carrying out the reform of the liturgy and have thus caused the disfigurement
or loss of priceless works of art.
In some places church buildings no longer serving their original purpose are
in such a state of neglect that grave harm is being done to the local
ecclesiastical heritage and works of art.
In its responsibility for the administration of the artistic patrimony of the
Church,  this Congregation has taken cognizance of these
facts and circumstances. It therefore urges the conferences of bishops to lay
down regulations applying to this extremely important matter.
Meanwhile the Congregation rightfully issues the following reminders and
1. "In commissioning artists and choosing works of art that are to
become part of a church, the highest artistic standard is to be set in order
that art may aid faith and devotion and be true to the reality it is to
symbolize and the purpose it is to serve." 
2. Works of art from the past are always and everywhere to be preserved so
that they may lend their noble service to divine worship and their help to the
people's active participation in the liturgy. 
3. Each diocesan curia is responsible for measures to ensure that, in
conformity with the norms set by the local Ordinary, rectors of churches, after
consultation with experts, prepare an inventory of places of worship and of the
contents that are of artistic and historical importance. This is to be an
itemized inventory that lists the value of each entry. Two copies are to be
drawn up, one to be kept by the church and the other by the diocesan curia. It
would be well for another copy to be sent by the curia to the Vatican Library.
The inventory should include notations on changes that have taken place in the
course of time.
4. Mindful of the legislation of Vatican Council II  and
of the directives in the documents of the Holy See, 
bishops are to exercise unfailing vigilance to ensure that the remodeling of
places of worship by reason of the reform of the liturgy is carried out with the
utmost caution. Any alterations must always be in keeping with the norms of the
liturgical reform and may never proceed without the approval of the commissions
on sacred art, on liturgy, and, when applicable, on music, or without prior
consultation with experts. The civil laws of the various countries protecting
valuable works of art are also to be taken into account.
5. Attending to the norms of the Directory Peregrinans in terra on the
pastoral ministry in tourism,  local Ordinaries are to
make sure that holy places and objects of celebrated artistic merit are made
more accessible to all; they bear witness to the Church's life and history.
Nevertheless even sacred edifices of artistic value remain places of worship and
tourists must not in any way disturb the liturgical celebrations.
6. Should it become necessary to adapt works of art and the treasures of the
past to the new liturgical laws,  bishops are to take care
that the need is genuine and that no harm comes to the work of art. The norms
and criteria in no. 4 of this document are also to be followed. When it is
judged that any such works are no longer suited to divine worship, they are
never to be given over to profane use. Rather they are to be set up in a fitting
place, namely, in a diocesan or interdiocesan museum, so that they are
accessible to all who wish to look at them. Similarly, ecclesiastical buildings
graced by are are not to be treated with neglect even when they no longer are
used for their original purpose. If they must be sold, buyers who can take
proper care of them are to be given preference (see CIC can. 1187).
7. Precious objects, especially votive offerings, are not to be disposed of
without permission of the Holy See, in keeping with CIC can. 1532. The
penalties in can. 2347-2349 continue to apply to those transferring ownership of
such objects unlawfully; such persons cannot be absolved until they have made
restitution for the losses incurred. Petitions submitted to obtain the
permission in question are to state clearly the decision of the commissions on
sacred art, on liturgy, and, when applicable, on music, as well as the opinion
of experts. In each instance, the applicable civil laws are to be respected.
This Congregation has full confidence that sacred works of art will
everywhere be treated reverently and safeguarded and that in their efforts to
promote new works in keeping with the mentality of every age the bishops will
use those works to aid the faithful's active and effective participation in the