Life-Sized Jesus Statues to Debut on Sydney Streets

Life-sized Jesus Christ statues will go on display throughout the streets of Sydney, Australia, beginning Tuesday to coincide with the opening of World Youth Day.

The 33 fiberglass sculptures, each a little over 5'7'', are part of an art exhibition called JESUSWALKS, according to Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph. More than 40 Australian artists, from a wide range of religious backgrounds, helped design the statues. The artists include Catholics, Protestants and non-Christians.

Some of the Australian designers draw on local culture for inspiration. Artist Teho Ropeyarn, for instance, decorated Jesus' robes with colorful designs from Torres Straight Island culture off the coast of northern Australia.

Other artists use graffiti, digital media, and print-making techniques to decorate the Jesus statues.

The exhibit's goal is to "demonstrate the connections between young people as pilgrims, young people as artists and young people in need," explained director and curator Helena McCarthy to The Daily Telegraph.

She added that the works attempt to "engage with the idea of faith in the contemporary cultural context."

"I thought it would be a great opportunity for young and emerging artists to have an audience of over 300,000 young people," she said.

The statues, which depict Jesus with his arms outreached, will be on display throughout World Youth Day, which takes place in Sydney July 15-20. At the end of the exhibit, the statues will be auctioned off and all the proceeds will be donated to Father Chris Riley's Youth Off The Streets program.

The Australia-based program works with young people who are chronically homeless, drug dependent or recovering from abuse and helps them to overcome their problems and start a new life.

On Monday, a giant wooden cross serving as the symbol for World Youth Day arrived in Sydney Harbor. Masses turned out to greet the 12.5-foot cross along with a painting featuring Mary and baby Jesus as the two symbols reached the final leg of a yearlong journey through Australia.

The Catholic World Youth Day event, led by Pope Benedict XVI, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of youths from Australia and beyond, and as many as half a million for the ending papal mass.