Angels Unawares

The Dublin Project

Angels Unawars and Pope Francis

“In a word, it is not only the cause of migrants that is at stake; it is not just about them, but about all of us, and about the present and future of the human family. Migrants, especially those who are most vulnerable, help us to read the ‘signs of the times.’”


Message for the WDMR – 2019

About the Project

“Angels Unawares” is a bronze life-size sculpture that depicts a group of migrants and refugees from different cultural and racial backgrounds and from diverse historic periods of time.

They stand together, shoulder to shoulder, huddled on a raft. Within this diverse crowd of people, angel wings emerge from the center, suggesting the presence of the sacred among them.

The inspiration of the work arises from a passage from Hebrews 13:2 found in the  New Testament: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”.

The sculptural work interprets this belief that there is to be found the sacred in the stranger, in terms of the refugee and migrant people. The work depicts migrants and refugees from all cultural and racial backgrounds and from all historic periods of time together – shoulder to shoulder on a raft or boat. Within this diverse crowd of people, angel wings are visible in the center, suggesting that within the migrant and refugee is the sacred.

Through the use of ancient scripture, contemporary and historical figures, and a universally held symbol of spirituality, the work truly is relevant to the Vatican as well as cities around the world that strive to emphasize that all life is sacred and should be treated as such.

Dermot Farrel Archbishop of Dublin

Greetings from the Archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland.

I am happy to write this letter to state that we would warmly welcome and support the emerging proposal to bring a bronze cast of your statue Angels Unawares’ to these shores.

It was very powerful to see the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on 26th September last, pointing from his window towards the original ‘Angels Unawares’ sculpture in St Peter’s Square during his remarks after the Angelus and encouraging the faithful ‘to look closely at the expressions of those people and grasp in that look the hope that every migrant has, to start living again. Go over there and look at that monument. Do not close the doors to their hope.’

It was a great teaching moment and underlines the rich potential of this work to inspire people of every nation, including ourselves here in Ireland, to engage with the issue of migration. It’s an issue that resonates deeply with Irish people in the light of our history of emigration when huge numbers left these shores in search of opportunity and for relief from famine and poverty. It also speaks to the contemporary challenge and opportunity of welcoming immigrants here.

Your sculpture would be a magnificent gift to Ireland and would make a tremendous statement about how the Church can contribute to the public square’, dialogue with people of good will and help sustain a culture of welcome and respect for human dignity.

Therefore, the Archdiocese of Dublin is open to working closely with your partners and the civic authorities here to find the most suitable location for this work so that it can be seen and appreciated by as many people as possible, including visitors to our country.

I also welcome and support the proposal for a cross Ireland tour of the sculpture which has been a very successful initiative in the United States. This would invite an island-wide engagement with the issue of migration so close to the Holy Father’s heart before it is placed at an agreed permanent location.

…excerpt from letter from Dermot Farrell  – Archbishop of Dublin to the artist, Timothy Schmalz.

Current Worldwide Locations

St. Peters Basilica, Vatican City, Rome

Catholic University of America, Washington D.C.

St Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, Montreal

Sculptor, Tim Schmalz and Angels Unawares

About the Location

Dublin, Ireland

The location of the Statue will be determined by the Archbishop of Dublin working in collaboration with civic authorities as well as other religious groups within the Republic of Ireland.

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