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The Pope Is Keeping An Eye On Madison Square Garden

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[Video via the New York Times]

Pope Francis will be making his first visit to New York City on September 24 and 25, and when he arrives, he'll be getting a very big welcome—assuming he ends up near Penn Station, anyway. (Who knows, he may decide to take Amtrak to Philadelphia for his big visit there on the 26th.) Artist Van Hecht-Nielsen hand-painted the massive portrait of Pope Francis, and the New York Times followed the artist through a day of painting for the video above. But according to the Wall Street Journal, the painting isn't merely a labor of love: Hecht-Nielsen was hired by the Diocese of Brooklyn, and the enormous display is an ad for the diocese's cable coverage of Pope Francis's visit. (How strange!)

The mural itself is 180 feet high, and is painted on the south side of 494 Eighth Avenue, between 34th and 35th Streets. Coincidentally, the Pope's enormous visage overlooks Madison Square Garden, where he's scheduled to lead a mass on September 25th. But Craig Tubiolo, who works with the Brooklyn diocese, sees it differently, according to the Times:

Tubiolo, who handles programming for the diocese and spearheaded the project, said it was divine intervention that the 225-foot-tall billboard space that towers over Madison Square Garden, where Francis will celebrate a Mass on Sept. 25, became available for the month of September.

"There's no way that was a coincidence," he said.

But Tubiolo's biggest hope is that Pope Francis actually pays a visit to his supersized likeness. "I hope he takes a selfie in front of it," he told the Times—hey, you never know. The mural will be up through October 5.

A photo posted by andyhotcakes (@andyhotcakes) on

· Before the Pope's Visit, a 180-Foot-Tall Francis Arrives in Midtown [NY Times]
· Pope Francis Mural Emerges In Manhattan [WSJ]