Graffiti artist chosen to illustrate Pope’s Lent message
The Vatican called on Italian street artist Maupal, famous for his creative depictions of Pope Francis, to illustrate Francis’ message with weekly posters.
This year, every Monday during Lent the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will publish a vignette drawn by Maupal—aka Mauro Pallotta— illustrating a passage from the Pope’s Lenten message. The artist is known to Romans (and the world) for his portraits of Francis painted on the streets of the Eternal City.
An artist’s eye
By commissioning the artist to contribute, the aim was to “break away from a classical presentation” and invite Christians to broaden their horizons, explains Muriel Fleury, head of communications for the dicastery.
An artist’s eye allows us to “see things we wouldn’t necessarily have seen,” she adds.
Lidia Magni | Lidia Magni
The first poster, designed around the general theme of the message — “Through the desert God guides us to freedom” — depicts Francis carrying a cart laden with a bag labeled “faith,” tracing a path through a desert littered with nails. These nails, Maupal explained at a press conference, represent “our old and new idols, all our prisons.”
“When we follow Pope Francis, who opens the way with the strength of faith, they disappear: The road becomes passable for all,” he added.
The right pope at the right time
This has been Maupal’s conviction since the beginning of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s pontificate.
“As soon as he was elected, I saw a great resemblance in his face to my late grandfather. I began to follow him more attentively. I appreciated his empathy, his defense of the weakest, and it resonated with my way of being,” he tells Aleteia.
Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP
So the street artist began depicting Francis in the streets, highlighting “things he said or sought to promote.” Along the way, the man who defines himself as “not an exemplary Catholic” has become closer to the Church with the 266th Pope.
“Pope Francis appeals a lot to people who are very far from the Church, and I think he’s the right pope at the right time,” he says.
AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI
Making the message accessible
With his seven drawings, which will be “graphic summaries of the Pope’s message,” Maupal intends to offer “seven steps to make it easily readable, even to a four-year-old, in an understandable, simple style which nevertheless is not ‘superficial or banal.’” By conveying Christian values through the language of art, he hopes to “break down barriers and accompany people.”
For this work, to which he has dedicated an entire month, Maupal also drew on his experience of working as an artist with prisoners.
“I met people who had been through hell […]. I’ve met people who have crossed the desert and, paradoxically, have reached inner freedom, the freedom that God gives,” he told the press.