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Homeless Jesus statue for Pope Francis

The “Homeless Jesus” statue resembles the Pope’s call to help the poor. The sculpture portrays a thin figured person covered in a blanket, lying on a park bench. With his face covered, the only thing exposed is the bare feet reminiscent of the nail holes on Jesus Christ’s feet.

Timothy P. Schmalz sits with his Homeless Jesus statue.
By Timothy P. Schmalz

The Canadian sculptor, Tim Schmalz has said he hopes people will sit at the feet of the sculpture and pick up some inspiration to help others. He describes his sculpture as a “visual ambassador” for the work Pope Francis is calling people to, which is “to be more concerned with the marginalized.”

The bronze statue of Jesus lying on a park bench caused some controversy when it was sculpted last year. Several cathedrals were not interested. St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York turned it away but this was just a setback.

On Wednesday, WGN News reported Pope Francis was so moved by it he commissioned to have one placed in Rome while another version of the homeless Jesus will be located in Chicago.

The Catholic Register reported Tim Schmalz was at the Vatican during a visit in November and Pope Francis blessed the original five-foot, scaled-down model of the sculpture. He donated the model to the Vatican Archives and hopes to have the statue installed by Easter 2014. The plan is to install the sculpture between Castel Sant’Angelo and the street leading to St. Peter’s Square.

Meanwhile Chicago Catholic Charities is hoping to place one of these statues on its own property or somewhere in the Loop where more people would see it. An anonymous donor is helping to pay for the Chicago sculpture.

The New York Daily News reported when Schmalz heard that St. Michael’s and St. Patrick’s weren’t going to give his statue a place on their front steps, his heart sank. A spokesperson for St. Patrick’s said the cathedral had to refuse because the building is undergoing extensive restorations and said they would review it in the future.

With these sculptures showing up in more places, Schmalz is hoping to reach many more with his work. He said, “My intent was to put these sculptures in all the major cities in North America and Europe and the world.” With people from around the globe visiting Rome, he said, “to have that sculpture there is basically preaching that Gospel message to the world, and that’s phenomenal.”

This life-size sculpture of a homeless Jesus is 36”h x 84”w x 24”d. According to the artist’s website, he was inspired by Matthew 25. “This sculpture is a representation that suggests Christ is with the most marginalized in our society. The Christ figure is shrouded in a blanket; the only indication that it is Jesus is the visible wounds on the feet. The life-size version of the work has enough room that someone is able to sit on the bench.”

The sculpture is certainly unique but not uncommon for this artist. A devout catholic, Schmalz has been creating religious works for over 25 years. In the video, he explains his masterpiece.

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