The Deacon's Bench

A new window in Orlando’s renovated cathedral is raising eyebrows:

When the renovated St. James Catholic Cathedral is dedicated here Saturday, the new stained-glass windows will feature a few familiar faces: Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary — and Archbishop Thomas Wenski.

Wenski, dressed in his bishop’s red robes and gold miter headgear, is depicted kneeling at the foot of the Crucifix, opposite Roman soldiers and in front of Mary, his hands clasped in prayer and his head tilted upward toward Christ. The Wenski window measures about 4 feet wide and 8 feet, 8 inches tall.

The inclusion of Wenski, who was bishop of the Diocese of Orlando during the downtown cathedral’s $10-million renovation and expansion, keeps with the Roman Catholic tradition of incorporating images of the clergy responsible for a church’s construction or remodeling, diocese spokeswoman Carol Brinati said.

“That is not an uncommon thing to do,” Brinati said. “A lot of times the person who is responsible for the renovation of the cathedral will lend their signature to the art.”

But the prominence of Wenski’s figure and his portrayal in modern vestments instead of the attire of Jesus’ day has some church members grumbling that his inclusion in the window was excessive and inappropriate.

“This is controversial, outrageous at worst, and bound to make many angry at the ego of this man,” said a St. James parishioner who did not want his name used because it might harm a friend who works for the diocese.

Sister Elizabeth Worley, who oversaw the renovation as the diocese’s chancellor, said the decision to depict Wenski in his red robes at the time of Christ’s death might not be historically accurate, but it does represent his position as the visionary who conceived the cathedral’s transformation.

“We could have put his face on another character. Instead, we decided this is the bishop’s church, the cathedral, and it should show the bishop at prayer at the foot of the cross on Good Friday,” she said. “It’s his vision that got this started. This art is his legacy to the Diocese of Orlando.”

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