October 29-31 2004: The Anniversary of The Vatican Comes to Duluth, An Exhibition of the Papal Artifacts’ Collection of Father Richard Kunst
The Vatican Comes to Duluth was an exhibit of Father Richard Kunst’s papal artifacts’ Collection, believed to be the largest collection of papal memorabilia in North America, including manuscripts, clothing items, relics and other rare items connected to the papacy.
Father Kunst started this Collection while working for the U.S. Senate. Through the years, it continued to grow and became so substantial that colleagues encouraged him to share these significant artifacts through a public viewing. The year 2004 was chosen for this spectacular event because it commemorated the end of Pope John Paul’s Jubilee Year.
The Collection now includes items from Our Father, Francis, to Pope St. Deusdedit who reigned from 615-618.
Papal Artifacts celebrates the anniversary of The Vatican Comes to Duluth. Proceeds from this event raised a significant amount of money that was then used to educate seminarians.
From the June 25, 2004 Duluth Bugeteer
This fall, people will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to view the largest private collection of papal artifacts in North America, and it’s happening in Duluth.
The collection of manuscripts, coins, clothing, documents and other items belongs to Father Richard Kunst of St. Benedict Church in Duluth. The College of St. Scholastica and the Diocese of Duluth have teamed up to organize the exhibit. “The Vatican Comes to Duluth” will be open for only three days during the last weekend in October at Somer’s Hall on the St. Scholastica campus.
“Not only is it a limited viewing, three days, it is a once-in-a-lifetime viewing,” said Rhonda Hughes, chairperson of the steering committee for the exhibit. Because the items are fragile and must be handled carefully with gloves, a lot of work is going into the organization. It is not expected to be done again.
“It’s a huge effort,” Hughes said. The committee includes 35 people, and there are nine subcommittees that focus on such aspects as education.
“Having viewed a portion of the collection that will be featured in ‘The Vatican Comes to Duluth,’ I can attest that it is an amazing collection of important papal artifacts that is sure to be of great interest to many people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike,” wrote the Rev. Dennis M. Schnurr, bishop of the Duluth Diocese, in a letter to Hughes.
The mission of the exhibit is two-fold: to educate the public through the viewing of the artifacts and to support religious education by donating the proceeds to seminarians and Catholic schools within the Duluth Diocese.
The education subcommittee is working on a curriculum, geared to educate fourth through eighth grade students on the history of the artifacts in the exhibit. Schools within the Diocese of Duluth will use this four-week curriculum before attending the exhibit. The information will be available on the Web site and will be useful to everyone who plans on viewing the exhibit.
“Those not familiar with the papacy will be able to learn also,” Hughes said.
Area private school students, teachers and chaperones will be the first to see the exhibit on Friday, Oct. 29. Then it will be open to the general public on Saturday and Sunday.
A sponsor dinner will be held on Friday evening, including a special keynote speaker. Archbishop Migliore, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, will come from the Vatican for the special event.
“To have a dignitary coming into Duluth is huge,” Hughes said.
A private viewing event will be held Saturday evening, including wine and appetizers.
Father Kunst has about 1,000 items in his collection now, but it was an autographed photo of President Jimmy Carter and his wife that led him to amass the collection of papal artifacts.
Kunst began collecting autographs after he received the autographed photo of Carter when he wrote to the president for a high school government class project. Then he began to collect autographs from presidents, candidates and movie, sports and music stars.
In 1995, he received from an autograph dealer a catalog that had three papal autographs available for auction. With a loan from his sister, he bought his first papal items: autographs of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, both as cardinals.
“This is what started my bug for papal and religious autographs. Not long after these first two popes I was able to add Pius VII and Pius IX,” wrote Kunst, in a history of the collection on the exhibit’s Web site.
He later sold his large collection of memorabilia from modern day celebrities and political autographs and used that money to purchase religious-themed items. He uses the Internet to find leads for rare items and has connections with dealers in Monaco, Italy, France, Austria, England and Germany.
The oldest document in the collection is a Papal Bull (Bulla or lead seal) of Pope Clement IV from 1266. There is also a Vatican II ring, given by Pope Paul VI to all participating bishops at the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1964. This ring is in the original box, which is extremely rare to be in a private collection.
There are also items that may appeal to children, such as a 3-D View Master toy featuring 21 pictures of Pope Pius XII declaring his predecessor a saint. These items will be featured when the students view the exhibit on Friday.
Some items have stories behind them. There is the white zucchetto (skull cap) of Pope John Paul II, which Kunst received himself by means of the ancient practice of swapping zucchettos with popes. During his first visit to Rome in 1998, Kunst bought a white zucchetto from the pope’s tailor, in hopes that the pope would trade with him. When he met Pope John Paul II, he declined. Kunst waited until his next visit to Rome in December 1999, but this time he approached the pope’s secretary, Bishop Dziwisz, with the same request. He also declined, but just before mass started he approached Kunst and asked for the zucchetto. During the Mass, the pope traded zucchettos with Kunst.
There is also an autograph of John Paul I, the most rare papal signature in the last 500 years. Because he was not expected to be a realistic candidate for the papacy, his signature was not often kept, and he died only 33 days after being elected.
“I think a greater sense of the richness of Catholic history,” said Kunst about what people will experience from the exhibit. The exhibit had been an idea discussed some time ago with Bishop Schnurr. Recently, the idea was brought up again, and Schnurr proposed the idea to the diocese in February.
The exhibit will take place this year to commemorate the end of Pope John Paul II’s Jubilee year. It will open the last weekend in October at Somer’s Hall on the campus of the College of St. Scholastica, 1200 Kenwood Ave.
News to Use
“The Vatican Comes to Duluth” will be open to regional private school students, teachers and chaperones from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 29. A sponsor dinner will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., featuring a keynote speech by Archbishop Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, and a special mass by Bishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Catholic Diocese of Duluth.
The exhibit will be open to the general public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 31. General admission is $10, family admission is $30, and admission is free for children under 12. A special private viewing event featuring wine and appetizers will be held Saturday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The cost for this event is $100 per person.