NEW YORK – The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute has announced that the theme of its 2018 major exhibition will be “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.”

The showcase will include over 50 garments on loan from the Vatican, along with pieces from the Met’s own collection, and will be sponsored by Versace.

Andrew Bolton, the institute’s curator, told the New York Times “The focus is on a shared hypothesis about what we call the Catholic imagination and the way it has engaged artists and designers and shaped their approach to creativity, as opposed to any kind of theology or sociology.

“Beauty has often been a bridge between believers and unbelievers,” he added.

Bolton said the exhibition was not intended to cause controversy and that the institute had consulted with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, on some of its selections.

The Met’s Costume Institute recently reopened in 2014 after a two-year renovation. The redesigned space was named in honor of Anna Wintour, the long-time editor of Vogue magazine and the co-chair of the famed Met ball, which takes place each May. The museum’s curator noted that Dolan would be invited to the exhibit’s opening and his presence would be a welcome one.

“The Roman Catholic Church has been producing and promoting beautiful works of art for centuries,” Greg Burke, the director of the Holy See press office, told The New York Times. “Most people have experienced that through religious paintings and architecture. This is another way of sharing some of that beauty that rarely gets seen.”

In 2015, Pope Francis was asked in an interview why he would not sell the Church’s art in order to meet the needs of the world’s poor. “This is an easy question. They are not the treasures of the Church, (but) the treasures of humanity,” he said.

The upcoming costume exhibition will open just a few months after the Met’s major fall art show, “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer,” turning their season into double billing of Catholic-inspired art.