RELIGION

American Sculptor Prepares Delicately Crafted Gift For Pope Francis

Pope Francis smiles during a visit to the people of Banado Norte at the Chapel of Juan Bautista in Asuncion on July 12, 2015.
Pope Francis smiles during a visit to the people of Banado Norte at the Chapel of Juan Bautista in Asuncion on July 12, 2015. Pope Francis decried the scourge of corruption as the 'gangrene of a people' on Saturday in Paraguay, one of the poorest countries in South America and where graft is rampant. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

In his studio in his serene backyard in Deptford, Frank Seder Jr. meticulously shaved a fine layer along a curve of a wooden crook. A chisel in the wrong direction, the artist noted, could cause an unsightly crack in the majestic, exotic purple wood from South America.

"I have to make sure everything is going to fit perfect," Seder, 65, said while wearing a magnifying-lens headpiece.

Perfect, for the pope.

When Pope Francis travels to Philadelphia to cap the church's eighth World Meeting of Families in September, Seder, a lifelong Catholic and respected South Jersey sculptor, plans to offer the church's top leader the pastoral staff that he has been crafting for three months. The "crosier" will mark Seder's third piece of artwork created for a pope: He completed projects for Francis' two predecessors.

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