We celebrate the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, a former enslaved person who became a nun.
A sculpture representing the release of trafficked persons will be exhibited in St. Peter’s Square on the occasion of the Sunday Angelus on February 6, 2022. The initiative, led by the Talitha Kum network, takes place within the framework of the Eighth World Day of Prayer and Reflection Against Human Trafficking, to be held on February 8.
The sculpture, created by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, is titled “Let the oppressed go free.” It depicts St. Josephine Bakhita (circa 1869 – 1947), a former Sudanese enslaved person who became a nun in Italy and is celebrated by the Catholic Church on February 8.
The saint, canonized by John Paul II in the year 2000, is represented here opening a trap door from which many victims of trafficking emerge. The original bronze work measures approximately 19 feet long. The one that will be brought to St. Peter’s Square is a scaled-down version made of glass-reinforced plastic and measuring 190 cm by 70 cm.
The work was produced at the beginning of 2021 by Timothy Schmalz. He explains, in a video , that the idea came to him from Cardinal Michael Czerny, interim prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The Canadian artist had already produced the large bronze monument representing a migrant boat, installed in St. Peter’s Square since 2019.
“Let the oppressed go free ” will be in St. Peter’s Square to “accompany the groups which will take part in the day of prayer,” and who in this context will be at the Sunday Angelus of the pontiff, explains Sr. Gabriella Bottani, coordinator of Talitha Kum, a global network of nuns committed against human trafficking.
The ultimate destination of this sculpture, which is also dedicated to the religious committed to the liberation of victims of trafficking, is still unknown. “We are in dialogue with the Diocese of Rome, the Migrants Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the artist to find the most appropriate location,” says Sr. Bottani. She adds that the work will be placed in “Rome in order to carry out work to raise awareness of trafficking.”