ROME, JULY 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A statue of John Paul II titled “Be Not Afraid,” was inaugurated Tuesday at Rome’s Gemelli hospital.
The new sculpture was blessed by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow and personal secretary and of the Polish Pope during his 27 years of pontificate.
The Tuscan sculptor, Stefano Pierotti, was present at the inauguration as well as the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno.
Cardinal Dziwisz recalled that the Gemelli hospital was the first place outside the Vatican walls that John Paul II visited as Pope on October 18, 1978, two days after his election.
He went to the clinic to visit his friend, Bishop Andrzej Deskur, who was later named cardinal and president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the cardinal stated.
John Paul II was taken to Gemelli on nine occasions: the first on May 13, 1981, after the assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square, and the last in March 2005, shortly before his death.
He spent a total of 153 days and 152 nights there.
On one of those occasions — during a stay in 1996 — the Pontiff dubbed the hospital Vatican III: the third papal residence after the Apostolic Palace in Rome and the summer home in Castel Gandolfo.
The cardinal said that this joke was not far from reality, that the Pope actually felt at home in Gemelli because it was a “Catholic hospital par excellence.”
“How could you not love that place, which would become the symbolic altar where he offered his life?” Cardinal Dziwisz asked.
“From this place, he has taught the Church how to live and how to die with the Lord,” he added.
The Gemelli was his original “cathedra” the prelate said, and thus the name of the hospital will remain inseparable from the memory of this Pope.
The cardinal stated, “From the tenth floor window, he blessed the suffering crowd, and now from the center of the square — where his sculpture was raised with exquisite sensitivity — he will continue to watch over this site and to bless those who come, and those who here serve the sorrow of mankind.”
The administrative director of the hospital, Doctor Antonio Cicchetti, said that there has been a desire to give tribute to John Paul II since April 2005.
Through him, the director explained, the hospital became known throughout the world, “thus increasing its fame and prestige.”
Due to the size of the sculpture, he said, the only place conceivable to place it was the plaza in front of the hospital, where it can be seen from the building’s windows.
Lorenzo Ornaghi, the rector of Italy’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, which uses Gemelli as the teaching hospital for its medical school, stated that the statue’s theme, “Be Not Afraid,” defines the institution.
He recalled that during John Paul II’s hospitalizations, the window of the tenth floor apartment, which is reserved for the Holy Father, became for all people the access to a teaching about suffering but also of “endless praise to the Lord, of human teachings and of Christian witness about the gratuitous gift of life and of faith.”
The sculpture took about seven months to complete. It weights around 18 tons and measures 3.05 meters [10 feet] tall.