UK City Rejects Church's 'Homeless Jesus' Statue

| by Diana Kruzman
The statue of Homeless Jesus by Timothy SchmalzThe statue of Homeless Jesus by Timothy Schmalz

A U.K. city council has rejected a proposal to erect a statue of Jesus represented as a homeless man outside of one of the country's most prominent churches.

The city of Westminster denied the application of the Methodist Central Hall Westminster, which stands next to Westminster Abbey, to place the statue there, according to Christian Today. MCHW agreed to take the statue after it was rejected by St Martin-in-the-Fields, a church in Trafalgar Square, and received several hundred endorsements on the city’s Development Planning website.

Rev Dr. Martyn Atkins, Team Leader at MCHW, said that the church disagreed with the decision to reject the statue.

"Homelessness is increasingly a global issue, and we are witnessing what many say is the largest ever migration of people in Europe and North Africa. London is a leading world city and the positive symbolic effect of placing 'The Homeless Jesus' here in Westminster would be enormous,” Atkins said. “As a church we are extremely disappointed at the refusal of this application.”

According to Atkins, the city council has misunderstood the nature of the statue’s artistic value.

“We're led to the unfortunate conclusion that a sculpture of Jesus, depicted as homeless, isn't welcome in Westminster and so close to the Houses of Parliament. I imagine many people will find the Council suggestion that this particular piece of public art would somehow lower the tone of the neighborhood insulting and ironic."

However, a spokesperson for the Westminster City Council said that the decision is due to a general overabundance of statues in the area, rather than discrimination against this specific statue.

"We welcome public art and sculptures in Westminster,” the spokesperson said, according to Christian Today. “However, there are traditionally a large number of applications for monuments and memorials in Parliament Square and the surrounding area and it reached saturation point some years ago when the council introduced a policy of no further statues being allowed in this area.”

The statue, sculpted by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, was blessed by Pope Francis in 2013, according to a Vatican press release. It will be displayed in Vatican City throughout the week before Easter, starting on March 23.

Sources: Christian Today, Holy See Press Office / Photo credit: michael_swan/Flickr