A statue of Jesus the Homeless was installed recently at Saint Albion’s Episcopal Church in North Carolina, depicting Jesus as a homeless vagrant sleeping on a park bench. One of the first people to see it as she drove past called the police, thinking it was a real person. The features of the statue are shrouded, expect for the feet which show the marks made by the crucifixion. The creator of the piece, Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, offered first casts to cathedrals in Toronto (St. Michael’s) and New York (St. Patrick’s), but both declined. The University of Toronto has one installed outside the Jesuit School of Theology. Last November Schmalz presented a miniature version to Pope Francis in Rome, who touched the knee of the sculpture, closed his eyes and prayed. If the City of Rome approve the installation, one will be placed on the Via della Conziliazione, leading to St. Peter’s Basilica. If you suddenly find someone sleeping on a bench outside your church, for the love of Jesus, don’t go calling the cops.
Finally the so called Bishop of Bling, Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, has been removed from his post by Pope Francis. The German bishop received wide criticism after the renovation of his residential complex costing €31 million. In Germany a church tax costs the country billions of euro, so the lack of transparency rubbed people up the wrong way. Monsignor Manfred Grothe, an auxiliary bishop will take over the post and Tebartz-van Elst will receive a new post at an opportune time.
Yes, those satanic seagulls are at it again. Exactly one year ago seagulls attacked two doves released by Pope Benedict as a sign of peace, but the doves escaped. Yesterday, the gulls decided to bring some reinforcements for their mission in the shape of a crow. You have to admire their choice. A crow is a more classical bird of evil, perhaps we may get a raven or two for next year’s rematch. Shortly after Pope Francis and two children released the doves, they were attacked by a seagull and a crow. Despite their being a crowd of tens of thousands of people in Saint Peter’s square, nobody knows if the doves survived. Well I guess that’s a miracle of sorts.
At the end of the World Youth Day week of celebration, the Pope’s Mass had to be moved to the beach of Copacabana due to weather changing the original location into a mud field. The shoreline most famous for night clubs and partying was swamped by over 3 million people enthusiastically greeting the pope and offering up babies to be kissed.
In his sermon Pope Francis encouraged young people who have protested against corruption to continue their efforts, fight apathy and offer a christian response. Many young people in Brazil have taken this as support for peaceful change, not a crusade. I agree that there cannot be apathy to corruption, but as for religion, that is a different matter.
Meanwhile, back in Rome, the media are being anything but apathetic towards Pope Francis and have been busy digging up dirt. The Italian clergyman hand-picked by Pope Francis to be papal delegate for the Vatican Bank, Battista Ricca, had a damning story published in the Italian press just days before the pope left for Brazil. The article charged that while Battista served in Uruguay from 1999 to 2001, he had a live-in male lover, cruised gay bars and brought a young man back to the Vatican embassy and ended up trapped in an elevator with him overnight. So far, Battista has retained his position. Additionally journalists have discovered that a woman Pope Francis appointed to a commission to study reform in the Vatican, Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, while having excellent credentials, has issued some Tweets critical of the church. And just to round it off, the media published a letter allegedly written by Nunzio Scarano, the former Vatican accountant, arrested for his part in a plot to smuggle $26 million in cash, to Pope Francis protesting his innocence. He claims to have documents to show Pope Francis secretly, which will prove that he only acted under the direction of his superiors.
So I guess Pope Francis will not be going home for a rest. There’s a lot going on.