Cathedrals turn down ‘homeless Jesus’ sculpture

April 19, 2013 by  
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Homeless Jesus' sculptureApril 18, 2013: The statue is haunting and uncomfortable, depicting a darkly shrouded figure lying huddled on a long park bench. From a distance, the figure could be anyone, and only on close examination are the tell-tale “stigmata,” or crucifixion wounds, visible on its exposed feet.

Timothy Schmalz’s “Homeless Jesus” isn’t your typical depiction of Christ, and it’s arresting imagery might have hit too close to home for some Catholic leaders. In fact, the life-size bronze sculpture was rejected by two high-profile cathedrals, St Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, despite initial enthusiasm by rectors.

“Homeless Jesus had no home,” Schmalz told the Toronto Star. “It was very upsetting because the rectors liked it, but when it got to the administration, people thought it might be too controversial or vague,” he said, adding he was told the piece “was not an appropriate image.”

Schmalz told the Catholic Register that his sculpture was inspired, in part, by a homeless man he saw lying on a sidewalk just before Christmas two years ago.

Homelessness is a problem in Toronto, where Advocates marked the city’s 700th homeless death — Stewart Poirier — in February at a small memorial service. Approximately 5,000 homeless live in the metropolitan area, according to most recent estimates.

In a phone interview with The Huffington Post, the sculptor explained that returning to the city and seeing so many homeless on its corners and benches can be a jarring experience. The December night when he spotted the homeless man who inspired him was a particularly poignant moment, he said. “My instinctive thought was, that is Jesus Christ. I just saw Jesus.”

The Ontario-based artist, a Christian himself, said that statue is meant as a permanent reminder of the Bible’s Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25:31-46, when Jesus tells his disciples that when they help the sick, the tired, the homeless, they also help him.

– cathnews

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