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Jalisco Craftsmen Making Accessories for Pope's Visit

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January 22, 2016

The unique hand-carved, cedar wood pieces, are two sculptures, the official emblem of the Vatican, three chairs and a reading lectern, Mexican sculptor and painter Agustín Parra told EFE.

Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico - A dozen craftsmen and carpenters from Jalisco are racing the clock to make furniture and accessories for Pope Francis to use during his visit to Mexico next month.

The unique, hand-carved, cedar pieces include two sculptures, the official emblem of the Vatican, three chairs and a reading lectern, Mexican sculptor and painter Agustín Parra told EFE.

The chairs created by the artists will be used during the official farewell reception that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife are hosting for the pope.

The design is inspired by the personality of Francis, who is characterized by his simplicity and austerity, says Parra. "We want to make it as simple and as natural as possible."

Therefore, the carved wooden chairs will be completely linear with some novohispanos elements, and instead of a gold finish they will have a semi-matte lacquer with seats made from a natural cotton fabric, he explained. Two of the chairs will be embellished with a hand-carved Mexican coat-of-arms in silver and the other with the Vatican seal, in gold.

With nearly 40 years of experience, Parra has produced furniture for three different popes. he made 96 pieces for John Paul II's Mexico visits in 1999 and 2002, while for Benedict XVI visit in 2012 he designed 34 pieces, both small and large.

"It is a great satisfaction because it seems that we are the only ones in the world to make furniture for three popes. We are happy to do so," he said.

Parra's team of carpenters and craftsmen shared the satisfaction. In his workshop in the south of Guadalajara, Jalisco, they are working eight to nine hours days to complete the pieces, knowing that the papal visit nears.

Francisco Arellano is delicately carving every detail of the official Vatican emblem that will accompany the Pope on his visits to different sites in Mexico. The perfection of the piece depends on the skill of his hands, so he is dedicating more attention than normal to the work. "Working for other people is very different than someone like the pope. He is putting his all into it to make it especially nice," said an EFE reporter watching Arellano carve the piece from raw wood. "He should be very proud of his work."

Enveloped by the smell of wood and lacquer that saturates the workshop, two craftsmen detail a small sculpture called "Joseph's Dream" using the novohispanos technique to create the piece that will be finished in gold leaf. They are also working on a sculpture of St. Francis of Assisi that will stand about one meter high.

Both pieces will adorn the room where the Pope will spend the night at the Apostolic Nunciature, as well as a canvas of San Ignacio de Loyola and another portraying the Annunciation of Mary - both painted by Parra, himself.

Artisans must finish the first batch of art pieces by the end of next week, because in a few days they hope to get the authorization of the Catholic Church for others that will be used in some of the activities that the Pope will have in five cities during his February 12-17, 2016 visit.

"We are working flat out to have everything ready, but we are happy," says Parra.

Original article translated and edited by María Francesca for