ROME — Pope Francis said Friday that he may have statues of the Pachamama fertility goddess placed in Saint Peter’s Basilica for the final Mass of the Amazon synod.
Speaking off the cuff in the synod hall, the pope confirmed that the statues represent Pachamama, an Andean fertility goddess also known as Mother Earth, but that they had been installed in the Catholic church of Santa Maria in Traspontina “without idolatrous intentions.”
Early Monday morning, two unidentified men removed the four statuettes from the church and marched them to the nearby Tiber River, where they tossed them off a bridge into the water.
“I would like to say a word about the statues of Pachamama that were removed from the church in the Traspontina, which were there without idolatrous intentions and were thrown at the Tiber,” the pope told participants in the Amazon synod, according to a Vatican communiqué sent to Breitbart News.
“First of all, this happened in Rome and as bishop of the diocese I ask forgiveness of the people who have been offended by this gesture,” he declared.
“I also wish to tell you that the statues, which created so much media hype, were found in the Tiber. The statues are not damaged,” he said, adding that this was “good news.”
Francis went on to say that the Commander of the Italian Carabinieri police wanted to inform the synod participants “before the news becomes public,” while adding that the figurines are currently being held in the office of the Commander of the Italian Carabinieri.
The Carabinieri police will be happy to follow up on any directive regarding the statues, Francis said, for example, “the exposition of the statues during the closing Mass of the Synod.”
“We will see. I delegate the Secretary of State to answer this,” the pope said.
As Francis remarked, the story of the statuettes, their installation in a Catholic church, and their eventual eviction has indeed caused a major stir both in Vatican circles and beyond.
On Thursday, the former head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office weighed in on the question, insisting that the Amazonian ‘idols’ depicting a naked pregnant woman should never have been placed in a Catholic church.
The wooden figurines had been presented to Pope Francis at a prayer ceremony in the Vatican gardens in early October and subsequently transferred to Santa Maria in Traspontina until they were removed from the church last Monday.
A video of the expulsion of the figurines from the church immediately went viral, while the Vatican’s communications director Paolo Ruffini downplayed the incident as a “stunt.”
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former Vatican doctrinal czar, said that the true crime was not removing the idols from the church, but allowing them in the first place.
“The great mistake was to bring the idols into the church, not to put them out. Because according to the law of God himself, his first commandment, idolatry is a grave sin. And not to mix them with the Christian liturgy,” Cardinal Müller said.
“So putting them out can be against human law, but to bring the idols into the church was a grave sin, was a crime, against the divine law. There is a deep difference,” he added.
“And so it is worse to bring those into the church, not to take them out,” he concluded.
If, as the pope suggested as a possibility, the statues are displayed in Saint Peter’s Basilica for the closing Mass of the Vatican synod Sunday, this new episode will likely overshadow any other news story emerging from the synod meeting.