Street Artist Bordalo II Protests Pope Francis’ Mass in Lisbon with Oversized Banknote Carpet
Portugal’s renowned street artist Bordalo II has staged a daring protest against the high cost of Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Lisbon by creating a huge carpet of fake 500-euro bills at the venue where the pontiff will celebrate a mass.
The artist, whose real name is Artur Bordalo, broke into the Parque das Nações on Thursday night and rolled out the carpet down the stairs leading to the altar where Francis will preside over the closing mass of the World Youth Day on Aug. 6.
The carpet, which covers an area of about 1,000 square meters, features oversized banknotes with the face of Francis and the words “In God We Trust”.
Bordalo II, who is known for his political and environmental art pieces often made from trash, shared pictures and videos of his protest on social media, calling it the “walk of shame”.
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He said he wanted to denounce the “hypocrisy” and “waste” of public money spent on the papal visit at a time when many Portuguese are struggling with rising prices, unemployment and poverty.
“At the time when many people are fighting to keep their homes, their work and their dignity, millions worth of public funds have been invested to sponsor the (papal) tour,” he wrote on Instagram.
Public outcry over papal spending
Pope Francis will travel to Portugal from Aug. 2-6 to attend the World Youth Day, a global gathering of young Catholics that is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world.
According to official estimates in January, the event will cost 161 million euros, to be paid by the government, the Catholic Church, the city council of Lisbon and nearby Loures.
The Portuguese state’s share of the expenditure was set at 30 million euros in January, but some media reports have suggested it could be higher.
The spending has sparked a public outcry and criticism from several politicians and public figures, who have questioned the need for such a lavish event amid an economic crisis.
Earlier this year, a petition signed by more than 20,000 people urged the Lisbon city council to cancel its planned contribution of 5.2 million euros for the construction of an altar for Francis’ mass.
The council later reduced its spending to 2.9 million euros after facing heavy pressure from opposition parties and civil society groups.
Mayor defends papal visit
Lisbon Mayor Carlos Moedas defended the papal visit as an opportunity to promote the city and its values, as well as to welcome pilgrims from different cultures and religions.
He said he respected Bordalo II’s artistic expression and his right to protest, but he did not agree with his message.
“I think it is normal that there are different opinions and voices about these events. I think it is part of democracy and freedom,” he told reporters on Friday.
He added that he hoped the pope would not be offended by the carpet and that he would appreciate the diversity and creativity of Lisbon’s street art scene.
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