The  life-size bronze statue "Sheltering" by Timothy Paul Schmalz The life-size bronze statue "Sheltering" by Timothy Paul Schmalz 

Pope Francis unveils sculpture dedicated to the homeless

Pope Francis blesses a new sculpture entitled “Sheltering” in St. Peter's Square that highlights the plight of the homeless. The bronze statue, by the renowned Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, seeks to promote the Vincentian Family's "13 Houses Campaign" to provide material and spiritual help to people suffering from homelessness, as the Church prepares to celebrate the 6th World Day of the Poor.

By Vatican News staff reporter

After  his Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis unveiled a new sculpture in St. Peter’s Square dedicated to the homeless.

It’s a life-size bronze statue titled "Sheltering" by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, known especially for his “Angels Unawares” sculpture of migrants and refugees installed in a corner of the square.

The new sculpture depicts a homeless person being covered by a blanket pulled over him by a flying dove. 

The Vincentian Family “13 Houses Campaign”

It was conceived to shine a spotlight on global homelessness and encourage practical solutions in keeping with the mission of the “13 Houses Campaign”, an initiative of the Homeless Alliance of the Vincentian Family (FHA) that gathers religious congregations, lay associations and charities inspired by the life and work of St. Vincent de Paul.

Through the campaign, the Alliance seeks to house 10,000 people worldwide, by the end of 2023 in more than 160 countries where the Vincentian Family already works, as part of a more ambitious plan to change the lives of many 1.2 billion people who are currently homeless around the world.

Solving homelessness

Commenting on the unveiling of “Sheltering”," Mark McGreevy, FHA coordinator and President of the Depaul International Group , said that the statue compels us to be aware of the homeless people around us. “Before we can solve homelessness, we have to understand it”, he explained.

“We need to stop and hear homeless people's stories and involve them in the solutions which deliver long-term change.”

"The inspiration of Jesus and St. Vincent de Paul leads us to dream big, but with deep humility. The dream is that at some point in history all of humanity will be able to have decent housing", said Tomaž Mavrič, Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul and of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

The Artist

Timothy Schmalz has spent 25 years sculpting large-scale works in bronze that are installed all over the world, including churches in Rome and in the Vatican. Much of his artwork focuses on timely issues of social justice, including homelessness, poverty, migration, and human trafficking.

He is known especially for his lifelike “Homeless Jesus”, showing Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench in Toronto, Canada, and the “Angels Unawares” , which was installed in the corner of St. Peter’s square and blessed by the Pope in 2019.

A replica of Angels Unawares in Boston, U.S.A.
A replica of Angels Unawares in Boston, U.S.A.

One of his most recent pieces is “Be Welcoming”, depicting an angel disguised as a stranger sitting on a bench with his belongings on his back, which was blessed late in September at the St. Mary of the Lake Catholic Church in Chicago, USA, by Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. 


The power of art, Mr. Schmalz said in an interview with Vatican News earlier this year, is “to create awareness in a very subtle and beautiful way to a whole society.”

The World Day of the Poor

Schmalz's new sculpture has been unveiled only a few days ahead of the 6th World Day of the Poor to be celebrated next Sunday, November 13. The Day was established by Pope Francis 2016 to celebrate the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Since 2017 it has been celebrated every year on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.


09 November 2022, 08:45