On the occasion of the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis inaugurated in the Vatican a bronze statue representing 140 migrants, inspired by a verse from the Epistle to the Hebrews (13:2): “And hospitality do not forget; for by this some, being not aware of it, have entertained angels.”
The life-size black bronze sculpture by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz depicts 140 migrants and refugees from different backgrounds and periods of history. Within this group, angel wings emerge from the center, suggesting the presence of the sacred among them. Baptized “Angels Unaware,” the work stands on the left side of St. Peter’s Square in Rome, on the initiative of the “Migrants and Refugees” section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
“I wanted this piece of art here in Saint Peter’s Square to remind everyone of the evangelical challenge of welcoming,” said Pope Francis at the end of the Angelus.
“In union with the faithful of all the dioceses of the world,” World Migrant and Refugee Day was “celebrated” to “reaffirm the need for no one to be excluded from society, whether he is a long-term resident citizen or a newcomer,” the pontiff emphasized at the inauguration.
As Valeurs Actuelles points out, since the beginning of his pontificate in March 2013, Pope Francis has made the reception of migrants “one of his pet subjects.” He visited the island of Lampedusa, the main gateway for migrants to Europe, a few months after his election. In April 2016, he even returned from a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos with three families of Syrian Muslim refugees aboard his plane.