Warsaw (AFP)

An unusual sculpture of Saint John Paul II lifting up a large meteorite was unveiled in Warsaw on Thursday - an artistic response to the creation of Italian Maurizio Cattelan showing the former pope succumbing under a block of rock.

Jerzy Kalina's installation, placed at the entrance to the National Museum, is titled "Poisonous Spring" and shows the Polish Pope in the middle of a piece of water tinted as red as blood, carrying a rock to the ground. over his head.

"For Kalina, John Paul II is not a helpless old man crushed by a meteorite, but a titan with superhuman strength," the museum said on its website.

The installation immediately aroused mockery and a number of online comments which saw it above all as a reflection of the ultra-Catholic positions taken by the populist Polish government.

A meme shared on social media shows the new Pope statue as an airplane passenger attempting to put the rock in a luggage compartment, while another depicts people fleeing from a giant version of the statue brandishing its large stone.

Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan aroused controversy in Poland for his work exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1999, a wax statue of Pope John Paul II crushed by a meteorite.

A year later, when the sculpture, titled "La Nona Ora" ("The Ninth Hour", editor's note), was exhibited at the Zacheta art gallery in Warsaw, two right-wing MPs attempted to remove the stone and straighten the statue, according to media reports.

The director of the museum was then forced to resign.

The life-size statue of Jerzy Kalina is intended to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Paul II.

"The artist sees the Pope as a man who has played a decisive role in the recent history of Poland and Europe, and who has started a process of historical, social and spiritual transformation", according to the museum.

However, while the Pope remains widely revered in Poland, his approach to sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church is timidly starting to raise questions in the public space.

© 2020 AFP