Mexican border town erects statue of Pope Francis

Today is the first anniversary of Pope Francis' historic visit to the US-Mexico border. In recognition of the day, a 20-foot bronze statue of the Pope will be unveiled by Bishop Jose Torres Campos during a special Mass. The Mass is being celebrated at El Punto where Pope Francis delivered his message to hundreds of thousands of people on 17 February, 2016.

The statue, depicting Pope Francis in his traditional attire, holding a peace dove, was created by sculptor Pedro Francisco Rodriguez. It was made from scrap metal donated by citizens and built by artisans who volunteered their time.

Juarez Chamber of Commerce president Alejandro Ramirez said people were able to contribute to the piece by donating any objects made of bronze. Collection stations placed in shopping centres throughout the city were filled with thousands of old keys and other items of scrap metal.

Salvador Perches, owner of Perches Funeral Homes, donated his time and labour to building the base of the statue and covering it with marble and granite. He said other businesses from Juarez also contributed to the project.

Perches said he believes the statue is a symbol of hope and comfort to all of those who see it.

"When we were asked to construct the altar for the Pope in 2015, we were honoured and took the task on as a religious mission. When we began working on the base of this statue, the work became something more. We were building the foundation for a statue that commemorates the Pope's visit and serves as a lasting reminder that we are blessed each and every day we are on this earth, " Perches said.

Perches said the statue is the biggest statue built of Pope Francis to date. He said Rodriguez used 22,000 pounds of bronze to build it.

"It's just beautiful, beautiful work. I can't wait for people to see it," Perches said.

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