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'Homeless Jesus' Sculpture Finds New Home at Jesuit Church

May 26, 2015 — Destined to become a sidewalk landmark in downtown Detroit, the sculpture known as "Homeless Jesus" will be installed and dedicated June 28 in front of Saints Peter & Paul Jesuit Catholic Church.

The bronze sculpture, created by Ontario artist Timothy Schmalz, features a life-size man lying on a 7-foot park bench. A blanket obscures most of the man's body, but the marks of Jesus' crucifixion are visible on his bare feet.

"It's going to be a great symbol for our city," said Jesuit Father Gary Wright, who ministers at the parish, which operates a warming center for homeless men and women.

An anonymous donor, who graduated in the 1960s from the University of Detroit Law School adjacent to the church, is paying to install the statue in Detroit, according to Fr. Wright.

The sculpture is being installed in cities around the world, including Phoenix, Washington D.C. and Chicago. One sits in front of the Regis College Jesuit School of Theology at the University of Toronto.

"The message is to raise up the dignity of those in need," said Fr. Wright. "The sculpture is a consolation and a blessing to the guests that we serve in our warming center. They can see their reflection in Jesus, and it calls to the rest of us to respond and to support the work."

"I think it will be one of the most visited spots in the city," said Detroit Deputy Mayor Isaiah McKinnon, who said he hoped the sculpture would inspire generosity. When the sculpture was recently installed in Buffalo, New York, passersby left donations there. In Austin, Texas, the statue inspired the creation of a fund that raised $100,000 for the homeless.

Schmalz first made the "Homeless Jesus" sculptures about three years ago, and each one is cast and shipped from his studio in Xiamen, China. Pope Francis has lauded the sculpture, blessing a model of it that Schmalz brought to the Vatican in 2013.

"The sculpture is meant to create awareness of the relation between spirituality and the least of our brothers, one of the greatest messages of Christianity, a message that is often overlooked in our western society," Schmalz said. [Source: Detroit Free Press, National Public Radio]

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