Who’s That Statue? Critics Slam Sculpture of Pope John Paul II

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Marco Guerrieri / AP

A giant bronze sculpture portraying Pope John Paul II is displayed outside Rome's Termini train Station, Friday, May 20, 2011.

“A tent.” “A bomb.” “Benito Mussolini.” Not the descriptions you’d want to hear about a newly unveiled statue, especially one of a former Pope.

A new statue went up outside of Rome’s Termini train station last Wednesday in honor of Pope John Paul II. That is, if you could tell it’s supposed to be the Pope. The modernist sculpture has been widely panned by critics who are disappointed with the 5-meter-tall (16-foot-tall) portrayal.

(PHOTOS: A look back at the life of Pope John Paul II)

John Paul is depicted wearing a large cloak, outstretched to symbolize the former Pope’s open and accepting nature. But passersby noted to news sources that the only welcoming the statue would do is to homeless people who could sleep inside the statue.

While the public is certainly entitled to its own opinion, perhaps the most scathing review came from the Vatican’s official newspaper, Osservatore Romano. “The face bears only scant resemblance to the pope,” a critic wrote. “We find ourselves in the piazza before a violent gash, like a bomb.” The statue’s Italian sculptor, Oliviero Rainaldi, told another paper he was disappointed his work had been misunderstood.

The statue was donated by a humanitarian foundation to mark John Paul II’s 91st birthday and recent beatification. It was installed at no cost to the city and Vatican culture officials did approve a sketch of the work before it was constructed.

But the Osservatore paper seemed resigned to the fact that the statue wasn’t moving – after all, it’s made of solid bronze – adding, “We’ll get used to it over time.”

(PHOTOS: Pope John Paul II, through the lens of his official photographer)

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