The third annual World Day for the Poor, 17 November 2019, was marked in Glasgow by a short ecumenical service around the statue of the “Homeless Jesus” which is situated at the rear of St George’s Tron Church, in Nelson Mandela Place. The statue’s sculptor, Timothy Schmalz, had suggested to all cities which have a copy of this sculpture that this might be an appropriate way to mark the day, so Fr Willie Slavin, who was instrumental in getting funding for the statue, and Glasgow Churches Together who took responsibility for obtaining planning consent for its siting, arranged the service on the afternoon of 17 November.
By a wonderful coincidence, Nelson Mandela Place was closed to traffic because the Christmas lights in George Square were due to be turned on that evening, so this gave a peaceful setting for the service, and also drew attention to it from passers-by heading into town.
A good number of people attended, including Fr Willie and Rev. John Miller of the Church of Scotland. A passage from Scripture was read, the Our Father was prayed by all present (as requested by the Pope for this day) and prayers of intercession were read for all affected by poverty and homelessness. Fr. Willie also handed out lovely cards showing the latest Schmaltz sculpture – in St Peter’s Square – called “Angels Unaware” – which depicts refugees escaping from Nazi Germany and other countries including, in our own time, Syria.
Sadly that same evening, a homeless man died in hospital after being found ill in a car park, possibly due to the freezing temperatures experienced over the weekend, a grim reminder of the challenges facing the poor even in our own city.