For the first time in nearly 400 years a new sculpture is in Saint Peter’s Square: Pope Francis unveiled “Angels Unawares,” depicting migrants and refugees.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. – Hebrews 13:2
Last month, in commemoration of the 105th annual World Day for Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis unveiled the newest sculpture in Saint Peter’s Square, entitled “Angels Unawares.” The sculpture is surrounded by the Doric colonnades, constructed in 1660 to embrace visitors in “the maternal arms of Mother Church.”
The sculpture, of bronze and clay by Canadian artist Timothy Schmaltz, depicts a boat carrying 140 migrants from different time periods. From the center emerges a pair of angel wings, which according to Schmaltz is supposed to show that the sacred is found in the stranger.
The sculpture features a Jew escaping Nazi Germany, a modern-day Syrian Muslim, a Cherokee man on the Trail of Tears, a pregnant Polish woman escaping Soviet Communism, an Irish boy fleeing from the potato famine, an Italian immigrant carrying a bag of food that would have come through Ellis Island, and ancient refugees from the Biblical era.
In unveiling the sculpture during his Angelus address, Pope Francis said:
“I wanted this artistic work here in Saint Peter’s Square to remind everyone of the evangelical challenge of hospitality. The Lord has a particular concern for foreigners, widows and orphans, for they are without rights, excluded and marginalized. We must pay special attention to the strangers in our midst as well as to widows, orphans and all the outcasts of our time.”