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Methodists to install sculpture blessed by Pope in Westminster

Pope Francis blesses the sculpture of Jesus during a general audience last year (CNS)

A statue of a homeless Jesus created by a Catholic artist is to be permanently installed outside Methodist Central Hall in Westminster.

The statue, a replica of another that was blessed by Pope Francis a year ago, is the brainchild of Canadian sculptor Tim Schmalz, who first thought of the idea after seeing a homeless man in his native Toronto who was “so invisible it was haunting”.

He said: “I just saw Jesus. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.”

A copy of the statue is also due to be installed in Washington DC at the behest of Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

There are plans to unveil replica in Dublin and in Rome, where the Vatican has lobbied the city to situate one on Via delia Conciliazione new St Peter’s Square. Mr Schmalz was in London last week and Methodist Central Hall, opposite Westminster Abbey, was one of five locations that he considered. The church has now started the process of approaching Westminster Council for permission.

He said the national headquarters of the English Methodist Church was fitting, as the sculpture was about “bringing Christianity to the people of London in a way that interwined is with secular cultures and ideas. It’s blurring the lines of Christianity and secular cultures. This one is meant to be mistaken for a city park bench.”

“The intention of the sculpture is to be a visual message of the most powerful idea of Christianity – that is, all human life is sacred,” he said. “To constantly remind us that the least of our brothers is sacred.”

“I’ve been doing Catholic sculpture for 25 years and I’ve never had such excitement from Protestants. It has been embraced by people who do not usually embrace Catholicism.

“The treasure of Catholicism is its association with art and history and it’s great to be able to share that,” he said.