A new, 20-foot tall bronze sculpture dubbed “Angels Unaware” was unveiled by Pope Francis on Sunday, which marked Michaelmas (the feast of archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel), in a special Mass for refugees held in St. Peter’s Square. The pope was accompanied by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz and four refugees.
According to Crux Now, the sculpture shows 140 people from different cultures and periods: from indigenous peoples to Jews escaping Nazi Germany to Syrians and Africans fleeing war and famine today.
Stealing directly from Jewish sources about angels roaming the earth with messages for different people, the pope said the statue was inspired by a verse in the New Testament’s “Letter to the Hebrews,” attributed to Paul the Apostle and establishing that Jesus was, indeed the product of the extramarital affair of a Jewish woman from Nazareth and the deity. The verse that inspired the statue reads: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
Bells rang throughout the square as the sculpture was unveiled, and a multiethnic choir wearing T-shirts reading “It’s not just about migrants” sang.
Take that, Texas mega-churches.
“Welcome, protect, promote and integrate,” the pope said, and continued, “If we put those four verbs into practice, we will promote the integral human development of all people.”
He also said that individualism and materialism are producing a “globalisation of indifference” where “migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking have become emblems of exclusion” and are “considered the source of all society’s ills.” He cautioned that our fear of “migrants and refugees knocking on our door in search of protection, security and a better future,” would lead to intolerance, closed-mindedness and racism.
The sculpture will remain in St. Peter’s Square for at least one week.