Philly Is Getting a Mural of the Pope

The North Philly mural, designed by Cesar Viveros, will honor Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia as part of the World Meeting of Families.
The Pope Mural in Philadelphia

A rendering of The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century (Courtesy of the Mural Arts Program)

Three groups gathered at the future home of St. Malachy School today to announce that one of the biggest figures in history is getting a mural: The Pope.

No, not former Phillies GM and manager Paul Owens. In honor of his impending visit to Philadelphia, Pope Francis will be the subject of Cesar Viveros’ new work, “The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century.” The Mural Arts Program, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the World Meeting of Families announced the mural and showed renderings at a press conference today at 11th and Thompson in North Philadelphia.

The 4,239-square-foot mural will be painted onto 153 five-by-five panels on several “Paint Days” at local high schools and other institutions; the panels will later be affixed to the St. Malachy’s wall. Some panels will be reserved for attendees of the World Meeting of Families, held in Philadelphia in late September.

The paint days, co-sponsored by the World Meeting of Families, will be held at Father Judge High School and St. Hubert’s in Northeast Philly, Holy Family Regional Catholic School in Bucks County, the Little Sisters of the Poor Holy Family Home in West Philadelphia, Saint Helena Parish in North Philly and The Joseph Fund in Camden. Dates for most of those events are forthcoming. The first paint day, at St. Malachy’s, will be on Tuesday. Students there will be the first to paint sections of the mural.

The current St. Malachy’s school, open since 1860, is a short distance away from the new site. Independence Mission Schools, which runs Malachy’s and 14 other Catholic schools in the Philadelphia area, hopes to open the new school by 2016.

The Associated Press covered this delightfully, saying the new Pope “is joining a colorful cast of characters painted on the outside of buildings across Philadelphia.” The Pope is a new cast member of the wacky ensemble sitcom City of Murals!

“The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is thrilled to be integrally involved in creating an uplifting work of public art that will forever commemorate the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 and Pope Francis’ visit to our extraordinary and beloved city,” MAP executive director Jane Golden said in a statement. “We at Mural Arts believe deeply in the power of art to transform lives and spaces. To have the unprecedented opportunity to transform a school and a neighborhood through this mural and to honor one of the world’s most transformative leaders is a wonderful privilege. I deeply believe that this mural, from the incredibly creative Cesar Viveros, will cultivate critical conversations about the family bond and its importance in our world.”

Viveros, who was born in Veracruz, Mexico, and established permanent residency in the U.S. in 2000, has worked on many murals in the city of Philadelphia before. He conceived of the Healing Walls murals in a partnership with Parris Stancell; these North Philadelphia murals were painted by Graterford inmates, crime victims, victim advocates and community members. He also painted the Imagining Frankford series along Frankford and Kensington Avenues.

“When Pope Francis comes to Philadelphia, it will be a historical moment in time and I want that moment to be registered visually with images that stand out,” Viveros said in his artist statement. “I want to paint about the wisdom that comes with years in the figure of Pope Francis and what he represents, and the natural wisdom we possess to support our family in this endless cycle of life.”

Read his full artist statement below.

The Sacred Now – Artist Statement