The Vatican’s Christmas stamps are among the most recognisable in the world. The author of this year’s two stamps was unexpectedly a homeless Polish artist, Adam Piekarski. He has been living in Rome for six years sleeping on the street until recently. It was then that Fr Leszek (Ruben) Pyś, C.Ss.R., became interested in him. “More than a year ago, Fr Leszek saw me drawing and asked if I could do a portrait for their chapel, and that’s how it all started,” says Piekarski. With an act of trust, the Redemptorist priest asked him for a painting, the portrait of St Clement Maria Hofbauer CSsR.
Because Piekarski had neither paints nor brushes, Fr Ruben provided this. In the meantime, Adam found a sort of atelier in the crypt of the church of Santa Maria in Monterone, in the centre of Rome and next to the Redemptorist religious house, where he began to work and leave his stuff. “The meeting with Father Ruben – Piekarski continues – was a turning point. The homeless, usually drunk man, was given a chance to start a new life”.
The news of the homeless artist reached Cardinal Konrad Krajewski. The papal almoner offered Adam Piekarski the room in the attic of the Palazzo Migliori, where a shelter for the homeless is located, as a studio. – “It was like a birthday present because my birthday was only one day before the new workshop,” said the artist.
However, this was not the end of the story. In the meantime, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski pointed out Adam to Fr Francesco Mazzitelli, deputy director of the Vatican Post. The latter did not hesitate to commission the homeless artist with painting the Nativity and the Three Kings scenes, which were turned into € 1.15 and € 1.10 stamps respectively on 9 November.
With this small initiative,” stresses the Vatican Post, “philately wanted to make the Christmas more concrete by promoting the recovery of these disadvantaged brothers of ours. “I still find it unreal,” says Adam, “and I keep thinking about this honour that has been granted to me. To me, a simple craftsman”.
One of the stamps depicts the Three Wise Men with the faces of homeless people from Palazzo Migliori, the Vatican’s homeless shelter. As Piekarski said, he knows these faces very well because he himself has lived many years on the street. – “When I was at the bottom of existence, I thought I would soon end this miserable life. But God had other plans for me and sent Father Leszek, who gave me a hand,” he said.
(based on several articles on the Internet, including aleteia.com, artslife.com, stacja7.pl)