Many share in mural project for Pope Francis

Pilgrims arriving in Philadelphia had the opportunity Tuesday to take a brush and create a lasting tribute to Pope Francis’ visit to the city.

“I feel happy because at least I can do something for the meeting, besides just coming here. God sees,” said Teendwa Mahunnah, 37, an architect from Tanzania visiting for the World Meeting, as he painted at a table in the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

“It’s a great joy to paint this,” said Jorge Stemphelet, 54, of Uruguay, via translator. He said the mural, which will go up on the wall of Saint Malachy School at 11th and Thompson streets, should bring joy to locals.

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“It’s going to give them more strength, especially because it’s for the Pope,” he said.

Organizers also are introducing the mural as a contender to break the Guiness World Record for “Most Contributions to a Painting by Numbers” — which is currently 2,263.

“We already have 2,500,” said artist Cesar Viveros, 46, who came to Philly from Mexico 18 years ago, and designed the mural, entitled The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century.

“It’s surreal,” Viveros said of the opportunity to work on a mural in honor of Pope Francis. “It’s like a dream.”

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The mural is meant to depict the relationships that exist not just within families, but amongst all people, he said. Pope Francis is in it, but he occupies a relatively small portion of the design.

“I wanted to depict him small because he’s humble. If he sees it, he will get it right away,” Viveros said. “Whoever follows the Pope understands that he’s a different one than anybody else before him. They call him the Pope of the people. I believe he really truly represents the message that Jesus gave when he was on earth.”

The public has been invited to 10 paint days to participate in creating the mural, which began over the summer and is expected to be completed by November.

Jane Golden, head of the Mural Arts Program, said no other Philly mural has been created in this manner before.

“When this event is over, this mural will serve as a lasting reminder of the Pope’s time here,” she said. “People can say, ‘I helped create that.’ Twenty years from now, that mural will be living on.”

By the numbers

square feet in the mural

gallons of paint

shades of color hand-mixed by the artist


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