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The La Pieta statue in St. Adalbert’s Church has been moved despite protests

The La Pietà statue, which depicts Mary cradling the body of Jesus on her lap after the crucifixion, was moved Tuesday morning after the city issued a permit earlier this month to remove it from St. Adalbert Church, a historic parish in Pilsen. The move comes after months of protests from neighbors, parishioners and other supporters who say the statue is a beloved relic of the church’s history.

Archdiocese of Chicago told “Tribune”. that the statue will move from St. Adalbert to St. Paul Catholic Church, about a mile to the southwest.

A small group of protesters formed a human chain in front of the truck carrying the statue before some were detained by police. The truck then drove off and neighbors came out of their homes to watch the commotion.

Se llevaron à la Virgencita– said a passerby in Spanish. They took the Virgin Mary.

The statue was originally scheduled to be dismantled in October, but was delayed due to a permit issue. The new permit, issued Nov. 9, allows workers to make a 6-by-7½-foot hole in the wall on the east side of the church.

Judy Vazquez and other members of the St. Adalbert Rosary Group watched over the church property as they waited for construction to begin. She arrived at the place at 6 am

“We will remain vigilant to be there,” Vazquez said. “We will continue this challenge.”

In August, workers began removing some of the bricks on the back, east exterior wall of the church. The work stopped because they did not have the proper work permit.

Since then, efforts to save the church, which closed in 2019, and its beloved replica of Michelangelo’s La Pieta statue have brought together the Polish, Spanish and English communities. In October, about 40 people withstood the cold voice of their concern and protest against the removal of the sculpture.

“Congregants will have access to services and will better enjoy the sculpture in its new home,” the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement. “Furthermore, this valuable community treasure can be better protected and preserved in an active parish church.”

The permit confirmed the worst fears of advocates such as Dalia Radecki, a Pilsen resident, retired Chicago Public Schools teacher and volunteer for The Resurrection Project.

“It will happen as soon as possible,” she said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do at this point. I only know that we will pray there.”

Radetsky lives near the church. She and other community members had previously watched the sculpture day and night for 40 days.

“Some of us slept in cars and trucks in the cold, protecting the Pieta because it is so sacred to us,” she said last month. “It will be a very sad and traumatic day for many of us when he is removed. Maybe a miracle will happen.”

Radetskaya said she wants church leaders to be more transparent about their intentions, sharing concerns that the church will be completely demolished in the future.

“We have dreams and we have hopes,” she said. “Why doesn’t the archdiocese come to talk to us? They are men of God, and they do not come and talk to us.’

St. Adalbert Catholic Church is located at 1650 W. 17th Street in the Pilsen area. The church was first built in 1874 and rebuilt after a fire in 1912. The place has long maintained its Polish roots, even though Polish immigrants have since left Pilsen, which now boasts a large Latino immigrant community.

Julie Sawicki, president of the Society of St. Adalbert, sees the church as a representation of the shared values, faith and history of the two groups. As the daughter of Polish immigrants, she said it was her “duty” to honor those who came before her.

“This church is one of their achievements and we should protect it and celebrate it as an example of what immigrants contribute to our society,” she said.

Even after the parish held its own final Mass during a trilingual service in 2019, the Society of St. Adalbert and other community groups united to restore the church as a sacred space. Cardinal Blaise Cupich attributed to the closing of the church to the parish’s declining population and at least $3 million for renovations.

“This is reprehensible on every level,” Savitsky said. “It’s sad that people can’t put their self-interest aside because they’re on precious land.”

According to Savitsky, the church is included in the “orange” list of the city as historical with architectural significance. But she demanded that the city designate the church as a landmark, which would lead to even tighter protection.

She said the Carrara marble for the statue was quarried from the same quarry Michelangelo used for the original Pietà.

Ald. Sigcho-López, who represents Pilsen, petitioned the city for that classification, she said. He has too called on Cardinal Blaise Cupich and Mayor Laurie Lightfoot to meet with parishioners and protesters about their worries.

After three and a half years of work, no progress, Savitsky said.

“Here we are in 2022, and the mark has not yet been set,” she said. “You have something like this in jeopardy because politics is more important than preserving something that is a jewel for the city of Chicago.”

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Irene Mascal-Del Giudice, a resident of Schiller Park, Illinois, was brought to tears at the thought of repealing the charter.

Although she doesn’t live in the neighborhood, the church’s history resonates with Mascal-Del Giudice, who is of Polish descent and previously served as president of the Illinois chapter of the Polish-American Congress.

She remembers visiting St. Adalbert around the time it closed and being struck by its beauty.

“This church is a great reminder of everything we’ve worked for,” she said. “This church is so beautiful, so inspiring. Everything in it touches the heart.”

After removing the statue, she firmly believes in keeping the sculpture, which she says represents the Mother of God herself.

“We pray to our Blessed Mother and see her there as in a statue,” she said. “We see her in our hearts. To remove the Pieta is to remove our hearts.’

Tribune reporter Adriana Perez contributed.


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