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Massive mural of Pope Francis to look out over New York

Sign painters work on a portrait of Pope Francis on the side of a New York City office (AP)

A 225ft tall billboard of Pope Francis has been placed in Midtown Manhattan ahead of the Pope’s visit to the city on September 24.

The billboard, on one of the city’s busiest intersections, on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 34th Street, is close to Madison Square Garden, where the Pope will celebrate Mass on September 25.

The mural was commissioned by DeSales Media Group, the communications and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Van Hecht-Nielsen, who created the ad, told the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Tablet magazine: “My wife (Ashlee) and I were very excited. We are both converts to the faith. “It is wonderful to see the way the pope is touching the world.”

Hecht-Nielsen, a parishioner of St John the Evangelist Church in Loveland, Colorado, with 10 years of experience painting billboards across the country, added: “People are getting excited and it is a blessing because I think it sends a message to the community.”

The mural includes the public hashtags #PopeInUSA and #PapaEnUSA, and is expected to be seen by 700,000 people each week.

The mural has been attracting the attention of workers and passersby.

“As a tourist, I think it is fantastic. I am Catholic so I am happy to see them doing that mural,” Chilean Lorena Quezada told diocesan Tablet newspaper. “It is impressive … I think the Pope is going to like it.”

New Yorker Charles Wickliffe said the mural made people think about religion and God.

“It is nice that [Pope Francis] is coming to Madison Square Garden and that people are putting his picture [on the billboard] instead of putting pictures of cars,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say.”