It was a statue that couldn’t find a home: a life-sized sculpture of Jesus depicted as a homeless man sleeping on a park bench, wrapped in a blanket, with his crucifixion wounds evident on his bare feet.

But after being rejected by two renowned cathedrals – St. Michael's in Toronto and St. Patrick's in New York -- 'Jesus the Homeless' finally found a fan in the Vatican: Pope Francis.

Sculptor Tim Schmalz travelled to Rome with 'Jesus the Homeless' last week to present the statue to the pope.

"The first thing he did when he saw my sculpture was he prayed, and then he blessed the piece,” Schmalz told CTV News. “And to have Pope Francis bless your sculpture is one of the most amazing experiences possible."

Father Terry McGuire, a retired Catholic priest living in Waterloo, Ont., isn't surprised the statue caught the pope’s attention.

"To me it coincides with Pope Francis in terms of his care and concern for the poor," McGuire told CTV News. "And Tim has a way of bringing out the feeling."

Schmalz, a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, lives in St. Jacobs, near Waterloo. He specializes in large-scale bronze Christian-themed works, which have been commissioned for public monuments and Christian churches.

He was inspired to create the 2.5-metre bronze statue after seeing a homeless person wrapped in a blanket in Toronto.

"Initially what I basically thought in my heart or in my head was: I just saw Jesus," Schmalz said. "And I wanted other people to have that experience when they see homeless people or marginalized people, to see that relationship with Jesus."

The estimated $25,000 statue, which took about eight months to create, was funded by private donors. It eventually found its way to the Jesuit School of Theology at the University of Toronto's Regis College.

"Unlike a lot of sculptures of Jesus that have ever been represented that are meant to be put on a pedestal, this sculpture meant to be put just on a city street," Schmalz said.

Schmalz also sent a 'Jesus the Homeless' replica to Chicago, where it's awaiting a permanent home. Another copy is on its way to Perth, Australia.

And the sculptor has been working with the Vatican to find a place for the statue in Rome, where they hope to install it near St. Peter's Square.

With reports from CTV Kichener's Priya Mann and CTV Toronto's Calvin To