A Statue of St. Josemaria at St. Peter's Basilica
A statue of the founder of Opus Dei was installed on the exterior of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on August 30. The sculpture, carved from a single block of Carrara marble, is approximately 5 meters (16 feet) in height, and is in a vaulted niche situated on the façade of the left transept of the Basilica, also known as the arm of St. Joseph, very close to the entrance to the sacristy. The niches in this section of the Basilica were destined by John Paul II for sculptures of saints and founders of our era. In the Vatican there are more than 150 statues of saints, including those situated on the colonnade around St. Peter’s Square.
The statue is the work of the Italian artist Romano Cosci, who worked in his studio in Pietrasanta, in the province of Lucca, in Tuscany. “It has been a great year of intense work to produce something very hard to make: the statue of a saint. An artist is almost never fully satisfied with his work. I wanted it to be pleasing to the faithful who see it, and to help them appreciate the figure of a priest who sought to fulfill God’s will in everything,” the sculptor said.
Cosci’s creation represents St. Josemaría dressed in the priestly vestments for Mass, with his arms slightly opened. Below are carved the papal shields of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, during whose pontificates the sculptor began and finished his work. At the saint’s feet are two angels, one of whom is presenting to St. Josemaría an open book, with words of Christ from the Gospel that the founder of Opus Dei had often meditated on: si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnes traham ad meipsum. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32).
On September 14, the Holy Father Benedict XVI blessed the statue in the presence of a festive audience of about a thousand people. Before the Holy Father arrived, there were addresses by the Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría; the Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, Cardinal Francesco Marchisano; and the sculptor, Romano Cosci. Attending the ceremony were Cardinals Giovanni Cheli, Julian Herranz, and Claudio Hummes, as well as Archbishop Angelo Comastri and Bishop Vittorio Lanzani.
The statue was unveiled when Pope Benedict XVI arrived. The Holy Father blessed it and said a brief prayer: “O God, who has chosen, in the Church, St. Josemaría, priest, to proclaim the universal call to sanctity and the apostolate, pour your blessing upon this statue and let all of those who see it be inspired to faithfully fulfill their daily work in the spirit of Christ and to serve with ardent love the work of the redemption. Through Christ our Lord.”
Benedict XVI then paused to pray for a few moments beneath the image, greeted the notables present and all of the faithful, and congratulated the sculptor.
Romana, No. 41, July-December 2005, p. 312.