21 October 2019, The Tablet

Protestor casts Amazon synod symbols into the Tiber

A video shows the wooden nude carvings of pregnant women representing 'life' being chucked into the river

Protestor casts Amazon synod symbols into the Tiber

Indigenous icons in the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina
Christopher Lamb/The Tablet

Wooden carvings of nude pregnant women that have been on display at events connected with the Amazon Synod of Bishops have been seized by a protestor and cast into the Tiber in Rome.

The figures have been the subject of controversy since the synod began. A carved figure of the pregnant woman was presented to Pope Francis at the opening tree-planting ceremony as "Our Lady of the Amazon".

Fr Giacomo Costa, a communications official for the Amazon synod, later said that the nude wooden figure of the pregnant woman, which has been present also at other events related to the synod, is not the Virgin Mary, but a female figure representing life.

“It is not the Virgin Mary, who said it is the Virgin Mary?” Costa said, referring to the figure that has also been described as a traditional indigenous religious symbol of the goddess Pachamama, or Mother Earth.


When told “many people have said” the woman is a figure of the Virgin Mary, Costa added that he had never heard that.

“There is nothing to know. It is an indigenous woman who represents life,” he stated, adding that his information commission will look for more information about it, but “it is a feminine figure” and is “neither pagan nor sacred”.

Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican communications dicastery, also said he regards the figure as “representing life”.
“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.”

After the video was posted, the author and commentator Austen Ivereigh tweeted: "It would help to have an apology from the Catholic news medium that first put out a story describing her as a pagan fertility symbol without ever asking the indigenous people, their pastors or the synod organisers who or what she was. Fake news has consequences."

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