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Amazon synod’s controversial carved figures thrown into Tiber River

The figures have been present at several events connected to the Vatican’s Amazon synod, and have been the subject of considerable controversy.

A screenshot from a YouTube video showing the controversial carved figures being thrown into the Tiber River.

A video uploaded to YouTube on Oct. 21 shows two men taking several wooden figures of a nude pregnant woman from a church near the Vatican and throwing them into the Tiber River.

The figures have been present at several events connected to the Vatican’s Amazon synod, and have been the subject of considerable controversy: some have characterized them as images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, others as the indigenous religious figure “Pachamama,” while Vatican spokesmen have characterized them more vaguely as symbols of “life.”

From the four-minute video it appears the event took place around dawn Oct. 21, when a person holding the video camera appears to enter the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina. The Church is in the immediate area of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica, and has been the location of events at which the controversial carved figure of a woman has been present.

Inside the church, a man is seen entering a side chapel and then leaving with a figure. The two people then exit the church and the video shows them carrying five of the carved images of the woman toward Castel Sant’Angelo. The men throw the figures from the side of the Sant’Angelo bridge into the Tiber River.

No faces are shown and the video was uploaded to YouTube under an anonymous account. As of publication, the video had amassed over 12,000 views.

Asked about the event at a press conference Oct. 21, Paolo Ruffini, head of Vatican communications, called it a “stunt.”

He said it is difficult to be asked for a Vatican reaction to something that had happened only a short time earlier, adding that “to steal something from a place and, in sum, to throw it away, is a stunt.”

Recalling comments he had made last week that the figure “represents life, fertility, the earth,” Ruffini said Oct. 21  that discarding the statues “is a gesture that seems to me to contradict the spirit of dialogue that should always animate everything.”

“I don’t know what else to say. It was a theft,” Ruffini added.

Fr. Giacomo Costa, a communications official for the Amazon synod, said Oct. 21 the carved figure represents life in the Amazon in the same way a “water bottle” or “parrots” represent life in the region.

Focus on the statues, and the gesture of throwing them into the Tiber river, “doesn’t make sense,” Costa said.

The priest added that “really, however, it is never constructive to steal an object.”

The controversial image was part of a tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican Oct. 4 and an Amazonian Via Crucis Oct. 19. The same figure has been present in the vicinity of the Vatican at various events happening during the synod, under the “Casa Comun” initiative, many of which have taken place at the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina.

The Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian region is a meeting on the life and ministry of the Church in the Amazon. It is taking place at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.

A small group of people supporting an alleged Marian visionary in Texas were also present outside the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina Oct. 21, protesting the Amazon synod. Four people stood outside the church, two of whom held signs with “the synod is heretical” written in English, Italian, and Latin.

The group handed out small slips of paper to passersby with the text: “Christ and Mary have come with new words and warnings The Amazon synod is heretical Do not miss the signs.”

Both the signs and the slips of paper pointed people to visit the website of a group supporting an alleged Marian apparition, which supporters call “Our Lady Mystical Rose of Argyle.” The bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, Michael Olson, said in August the alleged apparitions are not real, and released video evidence of the alleged visionary hiding a rose she later claims to have been manifested by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Supporters of the alleged apparitions say that Satan is trying to discredit their visions.

The protesters, among them the alleged visionary, were present outside Santa Maria in Traspontina at around 1:00 pm Oct. 21, but by 3:00 pm were no longer seen there.


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15 Comments

  1. Until such time as the figures are fully understood, explained and approved for display by the Church, they have no place in any Church-sanctioned ceremony or display.

  2. Very interesting.

    Something similar happened during Advent in Paris a few years back, to a prominently displayed piece of modern art which looked simultaneously like a Christmas tree and a sex toy:

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-art-vandals/vandals-bring-down-sex-toy-shaped-sculpture-in-paris-idUSKCN0I70F620141018

    Of course, in that case the art had been authorized by civil authorities, not Church officials.

    Wait, why did I say “of course”?

    • It will take the Vatican a day or two to release a statement blaming Trump, and by extension, rigid Conservative American Catholics alligned with right wing Evangelicals.

  3. Yes, an inexcusable “theft,” but also a reminder, perhaps, of other throne-versus-thrown events in even more “interesting times”…

    As when the body of Pope Hormosus was tossed into the same river in 896 A.D. (later retrieved and buried in St. Peter’s). And, Pope Pius IX of Vatican I, whose body in 1881 A.D. was almost taken by anticlerical protesters from his burial procession, to also be thrown into the Tiber.

    Today, with both a reversal of roles and with more civility, clericalists now simply ignore the magisterium altogether, and their betters who have come before.

    • Yes, and:

      “Willibald, the biographer, who knew Boniface and wrote his life at the command of his successor, makes not claim here to miraculous assistance [in conversions in north Germany], but attributes the success of the tree-felling to the general design of divine providence. To this act of Boniface’s he attributes some at least of the conversions in Hesse” (W.E. Brown, Bishops: Pioneers of Christendom, London/St. Louis: Herder Book Co., n.d.).

      And on other pages: “He found, too, that Christian priests and even bishops, far removed from ecclesiastical control, sometimes tolerated and sometimes adopted the rites of Paganism. It was not merely a first step in an evolution of Christianity, but a retrograde step amongst men who had been Christians.”

      And,

      “Contrary to the easy generalizations of many historians it must be pointed out that this great Catholic bishop, like his predecessors in Africa in the fourth century, like Martin in Gaul, did not permit any casual Christianization of heathen ceremonies unless the change in their character was clearly recognized. The men of Thuringia were not to be allowed to observe their ancient feasts under the patronage of the Christian Church.”

      Amazonia/Germania, quo vadis? Conversion? What’s that?

  4. Ruffini said Oct. 21 that discarding the statues “is a gesture that seems to me to contradict the spirit of dialogue that should always animate everything.”

    The ‘spirit of dialogue’ is not the Holy Spirit. No spirit can compete against the Creator Spirit. The dufusi in charge of the hierarchical church need to learn about their enemy.

  5. Did this “spirit of dialogue” include a discussion at the Aamzon Synod for the long time tolerance in “Brazilian Catholicism” for participation in the rituals and worship in Candomble (which includes spirit possession) and Umbanda (walking with/worship of ancestors?

    Has there been any mention at all at this Synod of already tolerated and valued syncretism of beliefs, for a Brazilian Catholic going to Mass and then a Candomble service/initiation at the Amazon Synod by Brazilian Bishops or anyone else who HAS to know…even if they just read a book?

    Why are nations whose churches are bleeding out its members year after year (Brazil and Germany) now the leaders in “synodality” and the experts to be listened to?…and in the case of Brazil..whose Catholics annually leave the already syncretic Marxist Catholic Church…will they return from more Christ-centered assemblies for the sake of more Marxism and more idolatry and more syncretism? Will this bring back Germans too?

    Who made the modern “incursions” and “colonizations”in Brazil (and other countries in South America)? Who are the real “exploiters?” The Evangelicals and Pentecostals? Or the sodomite Catholic priests and bishops whose “liberation theology” and affirmation of idolatry and syncretism replaced Christ the Savior and drove away so many Brazilian Catholics…and now…there’s even MORE of that? Even MORE?

  6. I salute the heroic actions of these men. In these evil and chaotic times Catholics are starved for a gesture of clarity and strength such as this. All of the churches in Rome defiled by these and other idols and pagan rites must be cleansed and reconsecrated in a spirit of urgency. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful!

  7. “Hey Papa Francesco, whatsa matta? You don’ta answer mya Dubia questions? I throwa youra pregnant, nakeda, Amazon-carved goddesses in the Tiber…eh.”

  8. These men who disposed of these demon idols followed the example of St Boniface (who chopped down a tree dedicated to the norse god Thor) and St Nicholas (who punched the heretic Arius in the face).
    Deus Vult!

  9. I couldn’t quite tell – I hope they were dense enough to sink, so they can rot away at the bottom of the river and not be retrieved. Pity they didn’t have time to hack the idols apart and burn them.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. The third and final week of the Synod begins with a splash – Catholic World Report
  2. An “Amazonian Face”, assorted spiritualities, and an anonymous “Ratio” – Catholic World Report

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