'Superpope' Francis T-shirts to help poor, needy

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 14 2017 04:30 AM

A work of street art that turned Pope Francis into "superpope" will now support Vatican charitable projects through the sale of t-shirts bearing the flying pontiff, artist MauPal said Friday.

In 2014, graffiti artist MauPal -- whose real name is Mauro Pallotta -- depicted Francis as a superman on a wall in the Eternal City, flying through the air with his right fist outstretched and white cassock billowing behind him.

The pope clutched his trademark black bag in his left hand, from which a blue-and-red striped scarf peeked out.

When it appeared in Rome in January 2014, it captured the imagination of tourists and locals alike.

Two years later, MauPal drew Francis in a school-boy spirit, playing a cheeky wall game of noughts and crosses while a Swiss Guard kept watch.

"With the economic and social crisis that hit Italy and the world, I saw Francis as a symbol of hope for all," the artist said.

"I graphically summed up a widely-shared opinion of the pope as someone with a lot of power who is also humane and humble at the same time".

The images, put up near Saint Peter's Basilica, were quickly scrubbed off by city workers.

But the sketches remained and reappear on T-shirts. Part of the proceeds from their sale go towards works of charity supported by the Vatican.

Not everyone loved the drawings at first, with some earnest Francis supporters bristling at the tongue-in-cheek portrayal of a superman pope.

But it seems Francis himself has given MauPal's works his blessing.

"I offered him the drawing I had painted on a simple piece of wood, a medium I thought fit his (anti-luxury) philosophy. He looked at me, he smiled at me, then he affectionately pinched my cheek," MauPal said.