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World Day of the Poor: Pope Francis will bless a sculpture that invites the world to care for the homeless

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 11.08.2022).- On November 9th, moments before his usual Wednesday general audience catechesis, Pope Francis will bless a new sculpture in St. Peter’s Square that highlights the plight of the homeless.

“Sheltering” is a life-size bronze sculpture showing the figure of a homeless person being covered by a blanket pulled over them by a dove in flight. This image of “Sheltering” will be unveiled days before the 6th World Day of the Poor, to be celebrated next Sunday, November 13.

The sculpture is the work of the Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, who already has an established track record in religious statues around the world. His work “Angels Unawares”, about migrants and refugees, was installed in St. Peter’s Square in 2019, when it was also blessed by the Holy Father.

“Sheltering” was conceived to shine a spotlight on global homelessness and encourage practical solutions in keeping with the mission of the 13 Houses Campaign, an initiative of the global Vincentian Family. The Vincentian Family is a movement of different religious congregations, lay associations and charities inspired by the life and work of St. Vincent de Paul, who “called together as many as he could, rich and poor, humble and powerful, used every means to inspire them with a sense of the poor –the privileged image of Christ– and urged them to help the poor directly and indirectly” (CM Constitutions, Introduction, p. 9. Rome, June 29, 1984).

The Vincentian family has come together to form the FamVin Homeless Alliance (FHA), with the aim of ending homelessness and changing the lives of the 1.2 billion people living without a place to call home around the world. Commenting on the unveiling of “Sheltering”,” Mark McGreevy, FHA coordinator and President of the Depaul International Group , said, “This statue makes a crucial statement about homelessness: it compels us to be aware of the homeless people around us. Before we can solve homelessness, we have to understand it . We need to stop and hear homeless people’s stories and involve them in the solutions which deliver long-term change.. No one should be without a home.”

McGreevy leads FHA, which, through the 13 Houses Campaign, seeks to house 10,000 people worldwide, by the end of 2023 in more than 160 countries where the Vincentian Family already works. “This is just the first step in an ambitious plan to change the lives of many of the 1.2 billion people who are currently homeless around the world”, he added.

Moreover, Tomaž Mavrič, Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul and of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, explained: “The inspiration of Jesus and St. Vincent de Paul leads us to dream big, but with deep humility. The dream is that at some point in history all of humanity will be able to have decent housing, a decent place to call home”.

Schmalz’s sculpture will be unveiled for the first time in an important week for global homelessness. On November 13, the 6th World Day of the Poor will be celebrated, reflecting Pope Francis’ unwavering commitment to the issue: “If we want life to overcome death and dignity to be rescued from injustice, the way is yours: Is to follow the poverty of Jesus Christ, sharing life out of love, breaking the bread of one’s existence with one’s brothers and sisters, beginning with the least, those who lack what is necessary, so that equality may be created, the poor may be freed from misery and the rich from vanity, both without hope.”