Sept. 30 (UPI) -- There is now a sculpture at the Vatican that honors migrants and refugees worldwide, after it was unveiled by Pope Francis to observe World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
The large bronze and clay statue, created by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, depicts 140 migrants and refugees in a boat, representing different ethnicities and different eras. The figures include the Virgin Mary and Joseph and Jewish prisoners escaping Nazi Germany. The pontiff unveiled the artwork during mass Sunday in St. Peter's Square.
The work, called "Angels Unaware," was inspired by a passage from the New Testament in the Bible, which reads, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."
"Loving our neighbor means feeling compassion for the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, drawing close to them, touching their sores and sharing their stories, and thus manifesting concretely God's tender love for them," Pope Francis said in his homily Sunday.
"This means being a neighbor to all those who are mistreated and abandoned on the streets of our world, soothing their wounds and bringing them to the nearest shelter, where their needs can be met."
Schmaltz, who has other artwork installed in the Vatican and Rome, said the statue is his visual translation of the Bible -- and added that he tries to create epic works that connect with visitors on an emotional level.
"The Lord has a particular concern for foreigners, widows and orphans, for they are without rights, excluded and marginalized," the pope said. "This is why God tells the Israelites to give them special care.
"In the Book of Exodus, the Lord warns his people not to mistreat in any way widows and orphans, for he hears their cry."