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Rome Reports

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Artist of new sculpture in St. Peter's Square: pope put his hands on his heart in gratitude

On Sunday at the Mass for Migrants and Refugees, Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz had a moment most artists only dream of – his work of art was presented to the pope. 

“The piece was unveiled by refugees and Pope Francis, the first time we actually saw the larger version of it. I couldn't speak Spanish, I don't speak Italian. He knew that. So what he did was he looked at me and he put his hands on his heart. It was just one of the most amazing moments of my life as a sculptor.”

He says the idea for “Angels Unaware” came after he read Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” 

The sculpture is a boat with 140 figures inside, representing migration from every race and period of time, with an angel in the center. Timothy said the angel's presence represents another factor. 

“In a sense, all the people on that ship, become an angel.”
“It's fascinating because at a glance, you see contemporary refugees, shoulder to shoulder against some of the historical movements of people, like the Jews escaping Nazi Germany, like the Irish, with the potato famine leaving to North America.”

Timothy admits once the idea came to him, he worked on it seven days a week and finished within the year. 

“It wasn't until I was basically finished with the project that I got one of the most amazing the emails, and that is that Pope Francis wants to install it in St. Peter's Square. For me, a Christian artist, that is just unbelievable, because I like to think that artwork is an instrument or tool for something else.”

This work of art is now accessible to every tourist passing through Rome, as a reminder that all life is sacred and the migration process has existed historically, since the beginning of time.