When Pope Francis visits Bosnia in June, he will celebrate mass in Sarajevo from a wooden armchair carved by a local Muslim sculptor, in a touching show of interfaith cooperation in a multi-ethnic nation known for its tumultuous past, reports AFP.
Edin Hajderovac, a 33-year-old artist who lives and works in Zavidovici, a small town in northern Bosnia, specializes in making religious objects and ornaments. When the Pope’s visit was announced, Hajderovac and his father Salem, a fellow sculptor, approached the local priest, Miro Beslic, about creating an intricately carved walnut chair for the leader of the Catholic church’s use.
“This chair will do some good in Zavidovici because it brings together Muslims and (Croat) Catholics,” Beslic told AFP, recalling the Bosnian War of 1992–95, which saw Muslims, Croats, and Serbs engaged in a bloody conflict. “Even though we are not really divided (now), there are still some tensions” lingering, he added.
In a statement announcing his journey to Bosnia, Pope Francis expressed the hope that the trip would “contribute to consolidating fraternity and peace” in the region.
Though work on the armchair began this week, the design is shrouded in secrecy, as the Church has asked Hajderovac not to share his progress with the press.
“It’s an enormous pleasure for me to have been chosen from among all the candidates, including some more well-known sculptors,” Hajderovac told AFP.
Another artwork linked to the pontiff also has been back in the news: Homeless Jesus, Timothy Schmalz’s statue of Jesus Christ as a homeless person huddled under a blanket on a park bench. In late 2013, the artist presented a smaller model of the 7-foot-long work to Pope Francis, who called it a “beautiful and excellent” depiction of Jesus (see Homeless Jesus Statue Makes Some Uncomfortable, but Not Pope Francis).
Although Homeless Jesus has actually triggered calls to the cops from concerned citizens who mistook it for a loitering vagrant, the statue has nevertheless been installed in cities across the US, including: Chicago; Phoenix; Davidson, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Charleston, West Virginia (see Controversial Homeless Jesus Sculpture Comes to Austin, Texas). Next on the docket is Detroit, where Schmalz has $32,000 in funding, and needs only a location, reports the Detroit Free Press.
“As a piece of art, it scrambles our brain. . . . The typical person is going to look at it and say, ‘Oh, that’s what I don’t want to be like.’ And then we notice it’s Christ and it makes us stop and think,” Reverend Gary Wright of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, told the Free Press.
Schmalz has suggested the church as his preferred location for the piece, and Wright is in favor of the idea: “The statue might be a comfort and consolation to our guests who are experiencing homelessness. They see their plight and suffering is honored in this way.”
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