Angels Unawares

The Sculpture

The Diocese of Brooklyn was selected to host the “Angels Unawares” sculpture for the month of December by Artist Timothy Schmalz and the Catholic University of America because of Brooklyn's religious and ethnic diversity, the work the Diocese of Brooklyn has done, as the diocese of Immigrants, on behalf of all migrants and refugees and the accomplished life work of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio as a national leader on immigrant concerns.

The sculpture will be placed along with a Christmas Tree, highlighting the Holy Family amidst the various refugees and migrants in the boat with them, at iconic Grand Army Plaza, a gateway to much of Brooklyn and Queens, in just the same way its sister sculpture is placed in St. Peter's square, Rome.

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A diocese of Immigrants

Founded in 1853, the Diocese of Brooklyn sought to address the needs of the more than five million Irish Catholic immigrants who, tired and poor, arrived at the port of New York in search of a better life, many of whom settled in Brooklyn and Queens. Today, the Diocese of Brooklyn continues its vibrant and diverse history, home again to an immigrant population, this time driven by Hispanics.

The boroughs’ combined population stands at more than 4.9 million, of which 1.5 million identify themselves as Catholics. Due to its multicultural and diverse populations, Masses are regularly held in 33 different languages across the Diocese, throughout 186 parishes with 210 churches. Its 26 ethnic ministries promote cultural events and provide an opportunity for immigrants to belong to the larger community while preserving and sharing their uniqueness and traditions.

Bishop DiMarzio

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was installed as the Seventh Bishop of Brooklyn, which encompasses the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, on October 3, 2003. During his time as the shepherd of the Diocese of Brooklyn, often referred to as the “Diocese of Immigrants” Bishop DiMarzio has remained a powerful advocate for the rights of immigrants throughout Brooklyn and Queens as well as across the United States of America.

Throughout his career, Bishop DiMarzio has been involved with a variety of religious and secular organizations designed to improve the status and lives of immigrants. During his six-year tenure as the Executive Director of Migration and Refugee Services for the then-U.S. Catholic Conference (now the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops), Bishop DiMarzio was a leading advocate of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Bishop DiMarzio has hailed the law as important “because it was able to legalize almost 3 million undocumented people.”

He is a Member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. In addition, he has served as Chairman of the Migration Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB); Chairman of the Board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; and was the US representative to the Global Commission on International Migration, a United Nations-sponsored Commission. Bishop DiMarzio has also served on the Boards of the International Catholic Migration Commission and the National Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Forum. He also serves on the Board of the Migration Policy Institute.

In addition to the many leadership positions he has held, Bishop DiMarzio has written extensively and has testified before Congress on many occasions on migration issues. During his time as Bishop of Brooklyn, he has issued three pastoral letters specifically on the subject of migrant rights and, as part of The Shepherd’s Voice Series, Bishop DiMarzio published a book entitled “A Catholic Teaching on the Issue of Immigration".

In the Media

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Watch Timothy Schmalz’s Dec. 7 interview with The Tablet and Currents News.
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Christians Have ‘Moral Duty’ to Help Migrants, Refugees, Pope Says
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New casting of Catholic sculptor’s immigration artwork unveiled
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Read more about these "Sacred strangers" from Boston College News