A statue of St. John Paul II donated by the University of San Sebastian in Chile has been moved to the Puente Alto neighborhood, five years after authorities refused to install it in a prominent area in the Chilean capital.
Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago blessed the statue during a Mass at the St. John Paul II Park to celebrate the canonization of the late pontiff.
“It was suggested to me that I go to Rome that day, but I wanted to remain here with you to celebrate this occasion of joy and grace,” he told the residents of Puente Alto, which is Santiago’s largest poor neighborhood.
“The figure of St. John Paul II is a seed that descends into the ground of Puente Alto, an area that has been touched by so much pain and abandonment,” Cardinal Ezzati said.
“Today, the Pope comes here to stay with you, to be a seed of justice, fraternity and peace, a seed that will bear fruit in a community in which everyone can feel that they are brothers and sisters and can share in the dignity of the children of God that we have been given through the Lord’s Resurrection.”
The 42-foot bronze statue was donated in 2009, but its installation in Santiago’s Bellavista district was rejected by the National Monuments Commission, which said it was too tall and would not look good.
Cardinal Ezzati said the “pride and self-sufficiency of those who think that art or beauty or truth depends on their own narrow point of view prevented this statue from being installed somewhere else. But in reality that was providential, because the Pope wants to be among the simple, among the poor.”
“From this place, Pope John Paul II will continue to walk with these people, with the people of Puente Alto, he will continue to foster hope in the poor, he will continue to encourage authorities to be committed to bringing about justice and peace in these places in Chile, so that a truly great community of brothers and sisters will be raised up here.”
Cardinal Ezzati said he spoke to Pope Francis about the blessing of the statue. “Holy Father, we are waiting for you,” he told him, “because there one of your predecessors has wished to remain in the hearts of the people.”
“I hope that in a year-and-a-half or two, when Pope Francis gets the chance to visit us, we can have a gathering as wonderful as this one today.”