St Francis of Assisi statue joins Great Stupa’s Peace Park near Bendigo

ADDITION: Artist Lucy Wang takes a closer look at the statue of St Francis of Assisi which is now part of the Peace Park at the Great Stupa pf Universal Compassion. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
ADDITION: Artist Lucy Wang takes a closer look at the statue of St Francis of Assisi which is now part of the Peace Park at the Great Stupa pf Universal Compassion. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

A statue of a Catholic saint has joined the Peace Park at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion.

The two-metre high St Francis of Assisi statue will be blessed by Bishop of the Sandhurst Leslie Tomlinson on Friday.

Chairman of the Great Stupa Ian Green said it was exciting to put the first statue into the peace park.

“There are others in the process of being made but St Francis first one,” he said.

“We have been planning this for five years by getting the parkland and sites ready. To see it coming together is really fantastic.

“I’ve never heard of a bishop doing blessing in Buddhist temple, so it is unique.”

St Francis of Assisi was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon and preacher in the 12th and 13th centuries. 

He is associated with the patronage of animals and the natural environment. 

“In offering this image of Saint Francis, we hope that the image will inspire those who encounter it with an admiration for the Saint who embodied in his life and work a humility, deep respect of others and a dedication to serving others,” Bishop Tomlinson said.

“We trust that his image will not only prompt admiration, but also inspire others to strive to live life similarly.”

Mr Green said St Francis was a fitting addition to the Peace Park given his association with the natural environment.

“The reason why Buddhists are so keen on him is because his life is an example of living for the benefit of others and living without aggrandising in any way,” Mr Green said.

“His concern with living with creatures – both humans and animals – is something endearing to (Buddhists).”

The statue is the first of many symbols of faith to be represented in the Peace Park.

Other installations will include an Ik onkar from the Sikh Community of Victoria, an Islamic mosaic and meditation cave, a large Hindu deity from the Hindu Community of Victoria and a statue from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“A lot (of the installations) are being made at present, some will arrive later this year,” Mr Green said.

“The Sikh (community) has been working on theirs for over a year and for the Islamic one we have been working with the Islamic Council of Victoria.”

The Great Stupa is also in conversation with the local Aboriginal community about a symbol of indigenous faith.

“We would love to have something representing the Indigenous spirituality and the initial conversations have been quite positive,” Mr Green said.

It is hoped that in time several other faiths will also be represented in the Peace Park.