Toronto artist paints papal picture

By  Andrew Santos, The Catholic Register
  • February 21, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - Toronto’s Dr. Suan Seh Foo presented Pope Benedict XVI with a portrait he had painted of the pontiff at a private audience at the Vatican last December.

“The experience at St. Peter’s was truly a grand affair not only for me, but the entire delegation that travelled with me,” said Foo, president of the alumni association for the University of Toronto’s medical school.

Foo, the medical director of Toronto’s Canterbury Clinic, travelled with a 12-person delegation, including Professor Roger Reynolds and Fr. Eduoard Jeauneau of Toronto’s Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, and members of Foo’s family.

In his painting, Foo depicted the Pope wearing an ermine-lined scarlet mozetta, lace rochet and embroidered stole, along with a pectoral cross and ring. Foo took three months to complete the illustration plus another four months to let it dry.

After viewing the portrait, Pope Benedict smiled his appreciation, said Foo. At the end of the audience, Foo and the group greeted the Pope who thanked him for the portrait. Along with the portrait, Pope Benedict was presented with a hand-crafted rosary of royal amber.

Foo’s inspiration for painting the Pope’s portrait came from reading Benedict XVI’s writings on liturgy and views regarding the affairs of the church. Foo said he has always admired Pope Benedict for his courageous and intellectual stands on many issues.

“He holds true to his beliefs and those of the magisterium of the church while at the same time, he adds to it with his intellectual perspective. I was looking forward to meeting him in person,” said Foo.

“Pope Benedict XVI has always come across as a reasonable, sympathetic soul. He is quite different from the criticisms levelled against him. Some may consider him to be a mean-looking tyrant but to me, he’s a compassionate individual.”  

Foo gives credit to Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, a friend and president of the Pontifical Institute for Justice and Peace, for securing an audience with the Pope and a visit to the Vatican.

“You would think that a Pope would be inaccessible but in my case, he wasn’t. It’s an experience that won’t be forgotten,” Foo said.

Though a doctor, Foo considers himself to be a born artist. It wasn’t until 1991, however, that he began illustrating portraits for others.

“Something I have always loved doing is painting. I decided that I would take time for myself and continue what I have always enjoyed,” he said.

Foo has painted several portraits.

With Foo’s papal audience now in the past, he still recounts his experience while browsing through the multitudes of pictures he has.

As for his next project, Foo said he isn’t able to disclose that information.

“It’s a secret as of now. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

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