Pope blesses statue of St. Josemaria Escriva

.- At the conclusion of his general audience today at St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed his blessing upon a statue of St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, which has recently found a home in a niche outside of St. Peter's Basilica.

The marble statue, which is about five meters high, was placed on the external wall of the left transept of the basilica, which is known as the arm of St. Joseph. It is near the entrance to the sacristy.

The late John Paul II, who canonized St. Josemaria in October of 2002, allocated the niches in this area of the basilica specifically for sculptures of saints and of founders of religious orders.

The statue of St. Josemaria was created by the Italian sculptor Romano Cosci and is now at home alongside other statues of similar dimensions. Among them are those of St. Gregory the Illuminator, apostle of Armenia, of the Carmelite St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes, and of St. Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers. Cosci spent about a year on the statue which now joins some 150 others around the massive Basilica.

Before Pope Benedict arrived to give the blessing, moving speeches were given by Bishop Javier Echeverria, prelate of Opus Dei, Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, and Romano Cosci, the statue's sculptor. The speeches were separated with hymns sung by the "Cappella Giulia" Choir led by Msgr. Pablo Colino.

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