Pope Francis visits Catholic-Jewish statue in Philadelphia
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Pope Francis visits Catholic-Jewish statue in Philadelphia

(JTA) — Pope Francis made an unscheduled visit in Philadelphia to a statue that refutes centuries of anti-Semitic imagery in Catholic art.

The pope and his friend, Buenos Aires Rabbi Abraham Skorka, on Sunday visited the campus of St. Joseph’s University so that the pope could bless the sculpture “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time,” commissioned by the university’s Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations. Two days earlier, Skorka had served as keynote speaker at the dedication of the work by artist Joshua Koffman, the Forward reported.

The sculpture shows a female figure representing the church sitting next to another female figure representing the synagogue, each holding their holy scriptures, which they appear to be discussing. It is meant to counter centuries of art in which the Christian “Ecclesia” wearing a crown stands triumphant, while a woman representing  “Synagoga” is blindfolded and her staff broken.

“This statue is exactly a demonstration of two sisters of the same dignity, the church and the synagogue,” Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters before the pope’s visit to the statue.