John Paul statue appalls critics’ and Vatican creativity

A new John Paul statue at Rome’s central Termini railway station has attracted criticism from experts and the Vatican.

The unconventional statue shows the former pope as a giant hollowed out figure and was meant to round off celebrations marking the beatification of John Paul and mark the former pontiff’s 91st birthday.

An outstretched arm and open cloak is meant to suggest “welcome”, but the four metre high figure elicited  a range of reactions from dismay to anger, most saying it does not represent the essence of John Paul.

“The face bears only scant resemblance to the pope. And altogether the result does not seem up to scratch,” the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said, comparing it to a tent or a military sentry box.

The L’Osservatore acknowledged that the statue is a modern work and called the city’s initiative to erect it “praiseworthy,” but added that “the statue’s sin” is that it is “hardly able to be recognized.”

Others have been less charitable, suggesting it’s hideous. Some have gone as far as saying that it looks somewhat like a urinal.

“Homeless people will sleep in there in the winter – the welcoming sense is guaranteed,” one protester said.

Other passersby have even compared the statue’s bulbous head to Italy’s former fascist leader, Mussolini.

“How could they have given such a kind pope the head of a Fascist?” said 71-year-old Antonio Lamonica.

As he pondered the statue in the bustling square, his wife muttered: “It’s ugly. Really ugly. Very ugly.”

Art critic Achille Bonito Oliva told La Repubblica daily that the harsh edges of the sculpture had left him perplexed and did not reflect John Paul’s gentle, caring nature. But he added “we’ll get used to it over time.”

After the wave of criticism, Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said changes could be made.

“There’s an ancient saying: ‘Vox populi, vox Dei’ [Latin for ‘Voice of the people, voice of God’],” Mr Alemanno said.

Statue designer, Italian artist Oliviero Rainaldi said he was sorry his work had been misunderstood.


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