FaithWorld

Desecrations of Divine Shepherdess images stir polarized Venezuela

(President Hugo Chavez attends a Catholic mass in Caracas February 27, 2009/Miraflores Palace)

A wave of vandalism against sacred images has shocked Venezuelans and sparked finger-pointing between the two sides of the bitter political divide characterizing President Hugo Chavez’s rule. Most of the vandalism has been directed against statues and images of the “Divine Shepherdess” — a local patron saint whose annual festival is one of Latin America’s biggest.

Most shockingly, what seems to be a bullet-hole has pierced the cheek of one statue of the Shepherdess in the western state of Lara, while her attending sheep have been smashed. Among dozens of such desecrations in the last few weeks, the statue of a saintly doctor, Jose Gregorio Hernandez, was decapitated in Yaracuy state, while another sculpture of the “Coromoto Virgin” had her hands chopped off.

Red paint has been sprayed over various images.

“These are utterly horrible events that offend the Catholic sentiment of the Venezuelan people,” senior Catholic leader Monsignor Jesus Gonzalez de Zarate told local TV. No suspects have been caught and some think a “satanic” cult may be responsible — but many Venezuelans suspect politics may be to blame for the mystery vandalism.

Though often proclaiming his Catholicism and using religious language in speeches, the socialist Chavez has lambasted the church’s hierarchy throughout his 12 years in power as being aligned with Venezuela’s rich and elite. He has never forgiven Catholic leaders for their perceived blessing of a 2002 coup that briefly toppled him.

Rome’s Pope John Paul statue slammed by critics, including Vatican daily

(A statue representing Pope John Paul II is unveiled outside Rome's Termini train station on May 18, 2011/Tony Gentile)

An unconventional new statue of the late Pope John Paul II, showing a giant hollowed out figure, has attracted harsh criticism from experts and the Vatican newspaper. The inauguration of the imposing bronze sculpture by Oliviero Rainaldi outside Rome’s central rail station was meant to round off celebrations to mark the beatification of John Paul, which moves him a major step closer to sainthood.

The statue is a representation of the pope opening his cloak with a welcoming, outstretched arm. But the four meter (yard) high figure provoked dismay and angry reactions from newspapers and art critics, who say it fails to capture the essence of the man.

World’s tallest Jesus statue unveiled in Poland

poland statue (Photo: Unveiling of the statue of Jesus in Swiebodzin, western Poland November 21, 2010/Sebastian Rzepiel)

About 15,000 Christian pilgrims and tourists streamed into the western Polish town of Swiebodzin Sunday for the unveiling of what has been billed as the world’s tallest statue of Jesus.

Polish television stations showed throngs of worshippers marching in procession with religious banners and placards proclaiming “Christ the King of the Universe.”

The brain child of retired local Roman Catholic priest Sylwester Zawadzki, the figure soars to a height of 33 meters (108 ft) which he said symbolized the 33 years Jesus lived on earth. It is three meters taller than Brazil’s statue of Christ the Redeemer which stands on a mountain top overlooking Rio de Janeiro.

Giant Jesus statue rises above Polish countryside

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A statue of Jesus Christ that its builders say will be the largest in the world is fast rising from a Polish cabbage field and local officials hope it will become a beacon for tourists. The builders expect to attach the arms, head and crown to the robed torso in coming days, weather and cranes permitting, completing a project conceived by local Catholic priest Sylwester Zawadzki and paid for by private donations.

Standing on an artificial mound, the plaster and fiber glass statue will stand some 52 meters (57 yards) when completed, taller than the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer with outstretched arms that gazes over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Polish officials say.

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“I’m happy because this project will bring publicity to our town, not only in Poland but also from the global media. Other countries are showing a lot of interest,” said Dariusz Bekisz, mayor of Swiebodzin, a town of about 21,000 people in western Poland some 100 km (60 miles) from the German border.