jesus statue timothy schmalz

Whatsoever You Do, a life-size statue of Jesus by Ontario sculptor Timothy Schmalz, was stolen, then returned with a sorry note to the Church of Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields in downtown Toronto. (Courtesy of Timothy Schmalz)

Elmira, Ont., sculptor Timothy Schmalz says he feels "uplifted" and "happy" after his latest work was returned, along with a sorry note, to the downtown church from which it was stolen about a week ago. 

The life-size statue, called Whatsoever You Do, had been sitting outside the Church of Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields in downtown Toronto since September. 

'It's interesting because I always thought Toronto was an amazing city with lots of polite people and I guess even the thieves are polite.'- Timothy Schmalz,  Elmira, Ont., sculptor 

Schmalz, whose work has recently been praised by Pope Francis, initially expressed shock when the statue was stolen last week by an unidentified thief. Now that's it has been returned, along with an apology note, Schmalz said he feels "optimistic."

"The fact that it's back and this man actually had the courage to bring it back and actually even write down 'I'm sorry' on it really makes me feel optimistic about Toronto and people's nature in general," Schmalz told CBC's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris on Monday. "Everyone basically does mistakes and this guy had the courage to fix it as much as he could."

Statue depicts Jesus as homeless

At first, Schmalz thought the life-sized statue, which depicts Jesus as homeless, was stolen because someone was trying to stifle the message of the statue.  

"It's a very powerful message," Schmalz said. "Basically what it's doing is it's showing a connection with the most marginalized in the community.

"I've had quite a few complaints with some of my pieces that that's not a way to represent Jesus; they're used to the more traditional representations of him."

Once the theft was reported, "the community really became upset by it," Schmalz said.

He theorizes that once the thief learned of the outrage in the neighbourhood, the statue was returned. "I just think he really had a turn of heart," he said. 

"I was quite uplifted and the fact that they brought it back really made me happy. The guy had a lot of courage to actually rip off the sculpture in the middle of daylight, but I think he had more courage to come back to the location and drop it right down at the same church, so it's a good story.

"It's interesting because I always thought Toronto was an amazing city with lots of polite people, and I guess even the thieves are polite," Schmalz said.