Our Lady of the Southern Cross - Help of Christians

At World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI blessed the painting of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians, which hangs in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. Sydney portrait artist, Paul Newton, had been asked to paint this new image of Our Lady and the Child Jesus to coincide with World Youth Day 2008.

Using Australian icons and motifs, Paul was able to create a uniquely Australian image of Our Lady presenting the baby Jesus to the world. He did this after doing a lot of research on other paintings of the Mother and Child from the history of traditional Western Art.

Speaking of his painting, Paul said, "The wattle was an obvious symbol of Australia as the golden wattle is the national emblem of Australia, and I gave her this garland instead of giving her a halo or crown, the thing that you traditionally would see Mary wearing.

"The landscape was again meant to be symbolic on a number of levels. The water flowing through in that meandering river was symbolic of the Holy Spirit, as well as in more literal ways suggesting the Australian outback with the scattered gums trees and a barren landscape.

"It's a twilight sky so I could show both the landscape and the suggestion of the Southern Cross. 'The stars in the sky, in addition to the Southern Cross, are as accurately as I could paint them, in their correct positions in the southern sky."

- Taken from The Catholic Weekly, August 2008. Copies of the image of Our Lady of the Southern Cross are available from The Catholic Weekly newspaper, Sydney.

Artist: Paul Newton - 2008

Read more from The Far East, November/December 2013