During a Christmas-tree lighting at 20 Grand Army Plaza on Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn unveiled and blessed a replica of the “Angels Unawares” sculpture.
This artwork depicts a raft packed with migrants and refugees representing several cultures and different historical eras. It was permanently dedicated at the Vatican in St. Peter’s Square in September 2019 to mark the 105th World Day of Refugees and Migrants.
The sculpture was designed by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz. The reproduction here is 20 feet long, 12 feet high and weighs 3.8-tons.
“To unveil this before us, we recognize what this is about,” said Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “It is a symbol of what we want to be, what we have been in the past and what the future holds for us if we hold to our values as Americans. This has truly been a land where everyone has a stake, and everyone should have a place in this great country of ours.”
Some 140 people are depicted in the raft, including a Jewish person fleeing Nazi Germany, a Syrian escaping that country’s civil war, a Polish woman running from the former communist regime, a Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, an Irish boy escaping the potato famine of the 1840s and the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he was moved by the story depicted by statue.
“It recognized the goodness in all of us,” he said. “The angels that walk among us. The everyday people who do such good and also recognize all who join us from around the world, our immigrant brothers and sisters who make this city great.”
The artwork arrived in Brooklyn as part of its tour of the United States. It will remain in the borough until Jan. 3. Afterward, it will be permanently installed at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
“[Angels Unawares] is our story,” said Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello of the Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens. “It is the story of humanity. The story of our church. The story of Brooklyn and Queens. The story of our ancestors. The story of all those who passed through Ellis Island.”