Sculpture meant to honor late pontiff draws criticism

ROME – A new, modernist sculpture of Pope John Paul II is turning into a monumental bust.

The Vatican on Friday slammed the giant artwork outside Rome’s Termini Train Station, saying it doesn’t even resemble the late pontiff.

Some Romans and tourists say the bronze statue looks more like Italy’s wartime dictator Benito Mussolini than the widely beloved pope.

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

The artist, Oliviero Rainaldi, depicted the pontiff as if he is opening his cloak to embrace the faithful. But the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said the effect of the nearly 16-foot statue bears “only a distant resemblance to the pope.”

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno, asked by APTN in an exclusive interview if the city might take down the statue, said public opinion would be considered.

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

“And from this point of view we cannot help but take into consideration the opinion of the public,” he added. “If public opinion consolidates around a negative opinion, we’ll have to take that into consideration.”

The statue, paid for by a foundation at no cost to the city of Rome, was erected a few days ago to mark what would have been John Paul’s 91st birthday on May 18.


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