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Homeless Jesus sculpture unveiled at Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral

Posted on: May 12, 2015 3:00 PM
Dean Dermot Dunne, Archbishop Michael Jackson, Tim Schmalz (sculptor) and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at the blessing and unveiling of the Homeless Jesus sculpture.
Photo Credit: Church of Ireland

[Church of Ireland] The striking and moving seven foot wide sculpture was dedicated and blessed by the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Geoffrey St Aubyn Jackson and the Most Revd Diarmuid Martin. The sculpture has been presented to the people of Dublin by an anonymous North American benefactor and the sculptor, Tim Schmalz, flew in from Canada to unveil it.

Speaking during the short service in the cathedral before the unveiling, Archbishop Jackson said that the people of Dublin were both honoured and chastened to receive the Homeless Jesus sculpture. Honoured, he said, because of the beauty of the craftsmanship and the trust expressed in the location of Christ Church Cathedral and chastened because of the “scandalous fact that the relentlessness of homelessness and the statistics of individual homeless people in Dublin in 2015 still merit such a sculpture as a reminder and as a memorial”.

The Archbishop said that Scripture spoke of Jesus saying: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”. The sculpture gave everyone who passed an opportunity to reflect on this facet of the narrative of Christianity, the birth, crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

“Throughout the world of today human beings are subjected to indignity, homelessness, trafficking and death simply for being alive and getting under the ideological skin of their oppressors. Every day for them is a Good Friday. They wait for the Day of Resurrection in hope and in fear, in trust and in betrayal, in darkness and in light. Homeless people draw us into their world – and rightly; we dare not abandon them here or abroad. The twenty–first century is not yet an improvement on the twentieth century. The Homeless Jesus is a reminder of their plight and terror, whatever their nationality or creed – and an icon of solidarity with them. Evil and exclusion make few distinctions of subtlety as they sweep forward in giddy destructiveness,” Archbishop Jackson stated. 

In his reflection Archbishop Martin recalled the death of [the homeless man] Jonathan Corrie [in Dublin] less than six months ago. His death stung our consciences, the Archbishop said, and there was a commitment given that this should never happen again. Much work was done, although there was an awareness that the challenge of homelessness was complex and could not be resolved over night. However, he observed that often big challenges ended up being put on the long finger. 

“This image of The Homeless Jesus is a reminder to the entire community of this city – Catholics and Protestants, people of faith and people of none – that as long as there are people who cannot find a suitable roof over their head and families without a place where they can live with dignity, then none of us can roll over in our comfortable beds with an easy conscience. Conscience, public opinion and political commitment must be kept alert every day and never settle back into thinking we have done enough,” he stated. 

Archbishop Martin said that for Christians, the homeless were not just statistics. Their plight is our plight, he said. The image of the Homeless Jesus reminded us of the demands of belief in Jesus Christ. He said that the sculpture was not just a normal statue. It was not created to be looked at and admired, it was an image which should draw the viewer’s glance to the many park benches, doorways and sheltered corners where Jesus lay homeless every day and every night. 

Casts of the much talked about Homeless Jesus sculpture have been installed in cities in North America, Canada and Europe. Following a competition among prospective Dublin sites, Christ Church Cathedral was chosen to be the location by Tim Schmalz. The bronze sculpture depicts a park bench with a faceless cloaked figure lying on it. Passers–by realise that the sculpture depicts Jesus only when they notice the holes in the feet. The piece is located in front of the cathedral in full view of the public.