26 October 2019, The Tablet

Pope apologies for theft of Amazon statues

The statues have been found and could be displayed during the closing Mass of the synod tomorrow

Pope apologies for theft of Amazon statues

A statue described by some as 'Our Lady of the Amazon' on display at synod events
CNS/Paul Haring

Pope Francis has apologised for the disposal of wooden indigenous statues into the River Tiber, explaining that the items have been retrieved and could be displayed during a Mass in St Peter’s on Sunday.

Wooden statuettes of pregnant women were removed by two men from a church near the Vatican and thrown into the river. The incident was filmed, posted on YouTube and applauded by some Catholics opposed to the Synod of Bishops gathering on the Amazon.

During the Friday afternoon prayer session as the synod gathering drew to a close, Pope Francis said: “As the Bishop of the Diocese [of Rome], I would like to ask forgiveness to anyone offended by this action.”

He added that the indigenous carvings, which some describe as “Our Lady of the Amazon,” were being displayed in the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina “without idolatrous intentions”.

The police, Francis explained, had retrieved the items from the river and had requested the Vatican to consider displaying them during the closing Mass of the synod gathering on Sunday 27 October. The Pope said he’d asked the Secretariat of State to respond.

“This is very good news,” he concluded. Conservative Catholics and like-minded media outlets have relentlessly criticised the use of the statuettes during the synod, labelling them as symbols of pagan worship. Vatican officials have denied any pagan connotation, but have also said the statues are not necessarily Marian either.

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