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“Homeless Jesus” found a home in Christ Church

For two years now, at the outside entrance of the Christ Church cathedral, a curious bronze person has been lying down on a bench, with her head and body covered.

On this sunny Tuesday morning, a group of kids is playing around the statue, and Olivia, one of them, is finishing her sandwich while literally sitting on it : “It’s amusing and totally unusual but I like it!”

Both disturbing and surprising, this artwork by the Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, named “Homeless Jesus” found a home in more than 50 cities in the world, every time in a spiritually symbolic place: Madrid, Chicago, Rome, Moscow, Johannesburg, Singapore…

In Dublin, the artist chose to put his statue in Christ Church cathedral, because “this monument is so historic and in the center of the city. Also the people at the Cathedral understand my work and it’s important for the place to receive it to really understand the message.”

The actual intention of the statue is to make a link between Jesus and homelessness. For Timothy Schmalz, “Christianity gave the western society the value that all life is sacred and valuable. One of the greatest obsessions humans have is wealth, perhaps this is our new God. How much of us are serving wealth at the expense of being human?”

The interior of Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral //christchurchcathedral.ie

With his work, most of the time with a religious aim, the sculptor wants to awake the consciousness and “help people develop more compassion”. And he already saw the good consequences of his creation, “For example, I have heard that the sculpture becomes a place where people drop gifts to the poor”.

Christ Church Cathedral has hosted the statue since May 2015. “Just walk around the streets of Dublin or other cities and one can see people lying in sleeping bags on the pavements,” Geoffrey McMaster, lay minister at Christ Church.

“But actually, all we usually see is a bag with a body in it. We can’t tell if it’s a man, a woman or a child. Equally, we can’t distinguish if the person is Irish or somebody from another country. This is what the statue is about for me.”

In the “Homeless Jesus”, we can identify the religious figure through the nail marks on the feets, representing the fact that Jesus was crucified. McMaster added: “in helping the needy person, we are helping Jesus and vice versa. The person being helped can in fact be anyone of any religion or indeed none. The only reason for helping is that he or she needs help.”

The statue will also be installed in the center of Belfast in the next few months. “We are currently negotiating with the city where the work should be installed,” Schmalz said.

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