WASHINGTON - When Pope Francis approaches the Catholic
Charities building in downtown Washington during his U.S.
visit in September, he will encounter a "homeless person"
covered in a blanket laying on a park bench.
The scene actually is a sculpture. And it's not a work of art
depicting any homeless person; it's the bronze image of
"I hope Pope Francis blesses our Homeless Jesus when he's
here," said Roland Woody, a Washington resident who was
homeless until earlier this year. "It's kind of a symbol of
hope for the homeless in D.C. If the pope blesses it, it will
be even more special."
If the pope does bless the 7-foot-long statue, it will be the
second one of its kind that he'll have done that for.
Pope Francis blessed a smaller version of the Homeless Jesus
sculpture during a late November 2013, general audience at
the Vatican in front of thousands of pilgrims.
Afterward, the pope told the sculptor, Timothy Schmaltz of
Toronto, that he thought it was a "beautiful piece of art"
and a wonderful representation of Jesus.
Schmaltz also created the Homeless Jesus statue in
Washington, as well as similar sculptures in place in Toronto
and several U.S. cities that include Denver, Phoenix and
The arrival of Homeless Jesus in Washington came last winter
after Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl witnessed the
pope's 2013 blessing of the smaller such statue, said Msgr.
John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the
"It's deceiving when you first look at it, because it looks
like a homeless person wrapped in a blanket laying on a park
bench," Msgr. Enzler told Catholic News Service during a
recent Wednesday evening Catholic Charities-sponsored dinner
for the homeless, held just a few steps from the statue.
"When you get up closer you realize it's a sculpture," he
On more than one occasion, a homeless person has approached
the priest and told him they could tell it was a statue of
Jesus, because of the holes in the feet.
"They recognize it right away," Msgr. Enzler said. "It's very
Such reaction is what Schmaltz envisioned when he began
working on his first Homeless Jesus sculpture in 2011.
Viewers are forced to take a second look at the sculpture of
a human wrapped in a blanket, face covered, with only the
feet exposed, to recognize that it's actually depicting
Jesus, Schmaltz said.
"I can imagine some people walking on a city street, walking
by thinking it's another homeless person, and then they'll
realize it's actually a representation of Jesus," he said in
2013. "They will have that moment of reflection."
Msgr. Enzler said Washington's Homeless Jesus has inspired
some to have a more compassionate view of the homeless and
has provided the poor with a little dignity.
"People who are homeless here say, 'That's our monument,
that's our Vietnam Memorial. That's our Lincoln Memorial.
That's our place,'" he said. "They love it. They'll come by
and they'll touch it. They'll say a prayer by it."