Fargo, N.D., Jul 6, 2016 / 03:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).
The Homeless Jesus statue is at it again. Since its installation in front of First Lutheran Church in downtown Fargo, N.D. last month, emergency crews have responded at least twice to calls from concerned residents who thought the statue was a real person.
The Fargo Fire Department told a local news station that it treats every call as an emergency, even if they think they are being sent to the statue. “It’s not a common call. It just shows we have concerned citizens who are willing to make the call,” Fargo police Sgt. Kevin Pallas told local news station WDAY Channel 6. “That’s encouraging.”
The bronze statue, created by sculptor Tim Schmalz, depicts Jesus as a homeless man lying on a park bench, covered in a blanket, with the crucifixion wounds on his feet. “Homeless Jesus” is based on the “Judgment of the Nations” scene from Matthew 25 and signifies Christ in “the most marginalized in our society,” according to Schmalz’s website.
The statue has been installed in cities all over the world, including at the Vatican. Almost every time the statue is installed in a new city, it inspires unique responses. In April 2014, when a Homeless Jesus statue was installed in a wealthy North Carolina neighborhood, at least one woman called emergency crews, thinking it was a real person. Another resident wrote a letter to the editor of a local paper, complaining that the statue “gave him the creeps.”
When the statue was unveiled outside St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo, N.Y., people started leaving donations for the homeless by the statue. Every day, the church collects the offerings of money, food, books, and even Buffalo Bills sports gear, and donates them to a local organization that helps the homeless.
Last winter, a Homeless Jesus statue in Canada sparked several calls to emergency services during particularly cold and snowy nights. Thanks to those who reported someone laying out in the cold, thankfully it's the "Homeless Jesus" statue. #HamOnt pic.twitter.com/8c7QsAep3X — Hamilton Paramedics (@hemsparamedics) January 20, 2016
Schmalz, a full-time sculptor and Ontario resident, took eight months to create the life-size statue. The first cast of Homeless Jesus was installed in 2013 in front of the University of Toronto’s Regis College. Earlier this year, the Homeless Jesus statue was installed in the Vatican outside of the papal charities office.
Pope Francis blessed a small model of the statue in 2013. During his papacy, Pope Francis and the papal charities office have reached out to the homeless in new ways, including the addition of free showers, haircuts and shaves for the homeless at the Vatican. Additional shelters have also been built in the Vatican during Pope Francis’ papacy, bringing the Vatican’s total capacity for housing the homeless up to 84.