Second try gets John Paul statue in Rome right

A controversial statue of Pope John Paul II has been revamped and unveiled in Rome to better reviews than the first time.

 ROME — The city of Rome unveiled a revamped statue of Pope John Paul II on Monday after the first one was pilloried by the public and the Vatican.

Artist Oliviero Rainaldi said he was pleased with the final product, saying it matched his original vision. He blamed workers for a botched assemblage the first time around.

When the larger-than-life statue was first unveiled in May 2011, it was widely criticized by passers-by as looking more like Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini than the beloved Polish pope. The Vatican's own art critic wrote that it looked like a "bomb" had landed.

That few could recognize it as honoring John Paul was a "sin," critic Sandro Barbagallo declared.

Rome's mayor quickly assembled a committee of art experts, culture officials and scholars to work with Rainaldi to make the sculpture match what had been approved in his sketches.

Rainaldi said the work involved "small corrections" to the "errors" made during the initial assembly.

The revisions unveiled Monday focus on the pope's face: he smiles now and has a neck and more defined chin rather than a stern expression on a bowling-ball-shaped head. His outstretched arm — with his cloak opened in a gesture of welcoming and protection — is straightened out.

The bronze's greenish hue is also evened out, the dark brown stains that marked the head and cloak mostly removed. And the statue now has its own enclosed pedestal rather than the patch of grass and bush that surrounded it previously.

Umberto Broccoli, Rome's superintendent of cultural heritage, said it was only natural that the work would elicit a range of opinions, saying Italy is a country of 50 million soccer referees, 50 million art critics and 50 million politicians.

"With contemporary art, you have to wait for years to pass before judging it," he told reporters at the site, located in front of Rome's main train station.

Still, passers-by on Monday were not shy about offering their opinions on the statue's (second) inauguration day.

"It's much better than before," said Marco Felici, a 53-year-old road worker who watched the unveiling ceremony with the rest of his neon orange-clad road crew. "The face is better and the neck. They did a good job this time."

Commuter Alberto Donella, however, wasn't convinced.

"It's not him. It's not him," he said as he walked by the statue. "He was joyful. He was nothing like this here. For me it still looks like a refrigerator."