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Pope Francis apologizes that Amazon synod ‘Pachamama’ was thrown into Tiber River

The Holy Father said the recovered images may appear at the synod’s closing Mass on Sunday.

A wooden statue of a pregnant woman is pictured in the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina as part of exhibits on the Amazon region during the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon in Rome Oct. 18, 2019. Several copies of the statue were stolen from the church and thrown into the Tiber River Oct. 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2019 / 10:43 am (CNA).- After controversial statues were thrown into Rome’s Tiber River, Pope Francis has issued an apology during Friday’s afternoon session of the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

“As bishop of this diocese,” Pope Francis, who is Bishop of Rome, said, “I ask forgiveness from those who have been offended by this gesture.”

Pope Francis also reported that the statues had been recovered from the river, are not damaged, and are being kept in the offices of the head of Italy’s national police.

The statues, which were identical carved images of a naked pregnant Amazonian woman, had been displayed in the Carmelite church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, close to the Vatican, and used in several events, rituals, and expression of spirituality taking place during the Oct. 6-27 Amazonian synod.

The pope said they had been displayed in the church “without idolatrous intentions,” French agency I.Media reported.

The statues were thrown into the river Oct. 21; a video released on YouTube showed two men entering the Church, leaving with the statues, and then throwing them off a nearby bridge.

The figures have become symbols of controversy during the synod of bishops, which is a meeting held to discuss the Church’s life and pastoral ministry in the Amazonian region of South America. They first appeared at an Oct. 4 tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican gardens, attended by Pope Francis, at which they were in the center of a collection of figurines around which attendees processed.

The pope referred to the statues as “Pachamama,” the name traditionally given to an Andean fertility goddess, which can be roughly translated as “Mother Earth.”

The pope’s use of the term “Pachamama” will likely further ongoing debate regarding the exact nature of the statutes, and what they represent.

They had been described as representing “Our Lady of the Amazon,” and some journalists initially suggested they represented the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Vatican spokesmen have said that they represent “life,” and are not religious symbols, but some journalists and commentators have raised questions about the origins of the symbols, and whether they were religious symbols of Amazonian indigenous groups.

Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican’s communications office, said last week that “fundamentally, it represents life. And enough. I believe to try and see pagan symbols or to see… evil, it is not,” he said, adding that “it represents life through a woman.”

He equated the image to that of a tree, saying “a tree is a sacred symbol.”

The pope said that the statues might be displayed during the closing Mass of the synod Oct. 27, saying that would be a matter for the Vatican’s Secretary of State to decide.



Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ remarks on the “Pachamama” images, translated by Vatican News:


Good afternoon. I want to say a word about the statues of the pachamama that were taken from the church of the Transpontina – which were there without idolatrous intentions – and were thrown into the Tiber.

First of all, this happened in Rome, and as Bishop of the Diocese I ask pardon of the persons who were offended by this act.

Then, I want to communicate to you that the states, which have created such media clamour, were found in the Tiber. The statues were not damaged.

The Commandant of the Carabinieri desires that you should be informed of this recovery before the news is made public. At the moment, the news is confidential, and the statues are being kept in the office of the Commandant of the Italian Carabinieri.

The Command of the Carabinieri will be very happy to follow up on any indication that would you like to give concerning the manner of publication of the news, and for other initiatives you would like to take in this regard; as, for example, the Commandant said, “the exhibition of the statues during the Holy Mass for the closing of the Synod”. We’ll see.

I have delegated the Secretary of State to respond to this.

This is a bit of good news. Thank you.

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  1. “Pope Francis also reported that the statues had been recovered from the river, are not damaged,”

    Well, drat. I wish they had had time to burn the things.

    “He equated the image to that of a tree, saying “a tree is a sacred symbol.””

    To whom?

    “First of all, this happened in Rome, and as Bishop of the Diocese I ask pardon of the persons who were offended by this act.”

    Perhaps you ought first to ask pardon of those persons who were offended by displaying the idols in the first place. And I’d suggest apologizing to three Persons above all.

    • Well, I suppose it’s clear idolatry, contrary to the teachings of Christianity, who allowed this statue to be placed inside a holy place, it came in the eyes of the world, many were perplexed rather baffled, it is outrageous, its never seen before, a full inquiry and explanation is urgently needed

  2. Francis says Pachamama is not exhibited with idolatrous intent. Very well. He could hardly say the contrary.
    But the principle expounded in 1 Corinthians 8 seems apt. Saint Paul said he would refrain from meat sacrificed to idols If he felt eating it would scandalize his fellow Christians. I doubt Paul would approve of Francis appearing to sanction veneration of what many regard as an idol. It would not matter if Francis himself did not regard it as an idol.

    • Hrefn,

      Thank you.

      You might want to make a note of the book “Dangerous Food: 1 Corinthians 8-10 in Its Context (Studies in Christianity and Judaism)”, described here:

      The description begins:

      Recognizing the social meaning of food and meals in Greco-Roman culture and, in particular, the social meaning of idol-food, is an integral part of understanding the impact of Paul’s instructions to the Christian community at Corinth regarding the consumption of idol-food. Shared meals were a central feature of social intercourse in Greco-Roman culture. Meals and food were markers of social status, and participation at meals was the main means of establishing and maintaining social relations. Participation in public rites (and sharing the meals which ensued) was a requirement of holding public office.

    • Thank you for your comments. I think that’s a very good point.
      As Christians we should always first assume the best intentions in others. The Holy Father obviously doesn’t intend those wooden carvings to be worshipped. But the events of the past week have caused scandal to his flock and that needs to be taken seriously.

      I have an older friend who’s terribly upset about this and there are YouTube bloggers who appear to be capitalizing on the fears of traditional Catholics.
      So I think we need to step back and take a breath, be charitable,thoughtful, aware and alert. The foes of our Church seek division and we shouldn’t play into their hands.

      • Good intentions are baked into the progressive worldview. The progressive people believe their intentions are of such august purity that their ends justify any and all means necessary to achieve these ends. If you don’t subject these people to being judged by the objective consequences of their actions, they escape all accountability for their actions. Subjectivity and intentions are a recipe for self-righteousness and the dictatorship of moral relativism.

  3. We read: “The pope said that the statues might be displayed during the closing Mass of the synod Oct. 27, saying that would be a matter for the Vatican’s Secretary of State to decide.”

    The Secretary of State?

    Does this mean that Pachamama and the entire Amazonia Synod have served as a sort of test case or even a decoy, and that–for good or for bad–that the key element of the underlying “reform” of the Curia is now, for practical purposes, decided and in place?

    The precedent would be the use of the recent Youth Synod as a pack mule for the late-appended and unvetted paragraphs on synodality.

    Elements of the proposed curial reform, as published earlier, included creation of one merged “super-dicastery” for Evangelization–and a diminished Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). This structure combined with an elevated role for the Secretariat of State–above the (silent-partner?) CDF.

    (Other draft reform elements were a one-size-fits-all reform of the autonomous departments and academies as dicasteries, possible creation of a dicastery for Charity, merger of [subsumed?] Education with Culture [the “paradigm shift”?], synodal decentralization from Rome even as Evangelization and possibly Charity and especially the Secretariat of State are ascendant, plus refrains throughout from Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si, and Amoris Laetitia.)

    With Amazonia as possible training wheels, will we now hear a surprise major announcement prior to Germania in December?

  4. I can only surmise that he is there to achieve an objective and that neither he nor his supporters and minions care about the views of genuine Catholics. He treats the Church and Catholics with contempt.

  5. The pope in a bubble.
    The irony of this pontificate. No longer the prisoner of the Vatican, the pope has become the prisoner of his own fantasy.
    It is at once anger provoking and profoundly pitiful.

  6. To be or not to be. Catholic. That is the question we Catholics must answer. A hypothetical. A pontiff who either seeks to retrieve an evangelical conversion oriented Catholic identity in a post Christian world, or rather seeks to eradicate that Catholic identity and create an entirely different idea of Christianity conformable to that post Christian world. Considerations. Regards the latter the Pontiff frowned upon a conversion as “trophyism”. He presided over a pagan ‘ecological’ ritual on the Vatican gardens. Regards the former he reconstituted the John Paul II Institute to reflect secular opinion on homosexuality, abortion, pop control, ecology. Amazonia has indeed been referred to as initiating a Big Tent religion. “Do those who raise the Tent perhaps not truly believe that Christ has defeated all these [demonic] forces by His redemptive work and that He, exalted over them all, forever and utterly maintains His sovereignty as Lord? In pagan ceremonies such as the ‘Pago a la Tierra’ – which closely resembles the event held in the Vatican gardens identified by a shaman’s grandson as a pagan ritual – sacrificing to spirits is the point of the whole thing. They involve giving back to ‘Mother Earth’ some of what is taken from ‘her’ in order to appease her if too much has been taken, in which case ‘she’ would no longer nurture but destroy through earthquakes and illness” (Bishop José Luis Azcona, Emeritus Bishop of Marajó in the Amazon in LifeSite). Jesuit Cardinal Jean Claude Hollerich, archbishop of Luxembourg made Cardinal the eve of the Synod strongly urges ecological conversion for all. Fr A Spadaro SJ Pope Francis’ ideological adviser perceives ecological conversion an equivalent of conversion to Christ. Pachamama carvings are the disputed entre into a new form of ecological awareness, perhaps a religion of ecology now the controversial center of what ecological conversion means. Cardinal Gerhard Müller to Raymond Arroyo’s query, “The great mistake was to bring the idols into the Church [Maria del Traspontina], not to put them out [throw them into the Tiber], because according to the Law of God Himself – the First Commandment – idolism [idolatry] is a grave sin and not to mix them with the Christian liturgy.”

    • Add to the Cardinal Müller’s condemnation that of Bishop Athanasius Schneider in a startling rebuke of the Pontiff in an Open Letter apparently issued today 10.26.19, “It was the logical practical consequence of the Abu Dhabi statement. The abomination of the veneration of wooden idols perpetrated in Rome during the Amazon Synod. Faced with such an evident scandal it is impossible that a Catholic bishop would remain silent, it would be unworthy of a successor of the Apostles. The first in the Church who should condemn such acts and do reparation is Pope Francis” (Bishop Schneider Astana Kazakhstan as cited in 1P5).

  7. This spectacle is finally over. These idols should have never been allowed in the first place into our Church! This heretic Pope needs to be replaced and his minions with him.

  8. I was a prisoner of the Catholic Church for 26 years and have many Catholic friends and family, but one day I read in the Bible Deuteronomy 4:15-16: “So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female ..” God forbids any kind of graven images BEFORE Pachamama! Then I read the commandments specifically Exodus 20:4 where God prohibits ANY kind of graven images. Therefore the Catholic Church opened the gates to idolatry long time BEFORE Pachamama!!! Where does all this commotion coming from???!!! Praise Yahweh I’m His prisoner now!!!

    • I’m sorry that you lost your faith. I pray that you will be given the grace to return to the Church.

      Your interpretation of Deuteronomy 4:15-16 is seriously flawed. God forbids making idols, not images. If I make a statue of George Washington I’m not making an idol to worship, I’m making an image of a man whom I admire. If I have photographs of my friends and relatives, I’m not idolizing them, just bringing them to mind.

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