Titled, "I Absolve You," this sculpture was blessed September 22, 2018, before veneration of St. Pio’s relics was opened to pilgrims at Old St. Patrick's Cathedral.
St. Padre Pio, known for the painful stigmata he bore marking him as one of the few saints to suffer the wounds of Christ’s Passion, was also known for his charism as a great confessor.
His reputation for “reading hearts” and discerning whether the penitent had been truthful or whether he had left out a sin brought hundreds of people to him every day, eager to unburden themselves and repent.
Since September of 2018, visitors to New York have been able to engage in a meditation to recreate that experience, with an “interactive” statue of St. Pio in his role as confessor.
The statue’s inauguration kicked off a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of St. Pio of Pietrelcina’s death.
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in lower Manhattan displayed a statue bearing the title of “St. Padre Pio – I Absolve You,” sculpted by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz.
The sculpture, a gift to the church from the Saint Pio Foundation, features a confessional with two seats – one for St. Pio, and one for whoever cares to sit on the other side of the confessional screen from him. A glance at the screen reveals the face of Jesus – a visual reminder that the priest acts in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”) when he hears confessions.
““It’s a very moving and interactive statue,” Msgr. Donald Sakano, pastor of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, told Catholic New York. “It invites you to sit next to him.”
Schmalz is known for his bronze “Homeless Jesus” sculptures, installed all over the world, featuring a cloaked man, recognizable as Jesus by his wounds, lying on a park bench, challenging passersby to contemplate Jesus’ reminder in the Gospel of Matthew: “as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.”
The blessing of the statue took place on Sunday, September 16, 2018, and marked the start of a week of events commemorating St. Pio, but it remains on display before the historic NY cathedral for visitors to enjoy.
Not in New York? See some more great shots of the statue and its blessing in the video below, provided by the St. Padre Pio Foundation: