Thieves steal wood carvings used at synod prayer and throw them in the river

Members of Amazon indigenous populations pray at the end a Via Crucis procession from St. Angelo Castle to the Vatican, Saturday, on Oct. 19, 2019. Pope Francis is holding a three-week meeting on preserving the rainforest and ministering to its native people as he fended off attacks from conservatives who are opposed to his ecological agenda. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)Members of Amazon indigenous populations pray at the end a Via Crucis procession from St. Angelo Castle to the Vatican, Saturday, on Oct. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Update: this article has been updated with reporting from Catholic News Service to replace the earlier report from the Associated Press. The headline has also been updated.

ROME (CNS) -- Two men entered a Catholic Church near the Vatican early Oct. 21 and stole copies of a statue of a pregnant woman that had been a centerpiece of several prayer services connected to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

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In a video shared with bloggers and Catholic news outlets that have complained about the statue being a pagan symbol, the two men set the statues on the railing of a bridge over the Tiber River and knocked them in, watching them float away.

The statues of a kneeling pregnant woman "represented life, fertility, Mother Earth," Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, told reporters Oct. 21.

Stealing the statues and throwing them in the river, he said, "is a gesture that contradicts the spirit of dialogue."

"I don't know what else to say except that it was a theft and perhaps that speaks for itself," Ruffini said. Police are investigating the theft.

Cardinal Ruffini: Stealing the statues "is a gesture that contradicts the spirit of dialogue."

The statues had been kept in several side chapels at the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina where prayer services connected to the synod have been held daily since the gathering began in early October.

The statue was present Oct. 4 when Pope Francis planted a tree in the Vatican gardens and entrusted the synod to St. Francis of Assisi. It was used again Oct. 7 during a prayer and procession from the Basilica of St. Peter to the Vatican synod hall and early Oct. 19 as synod members and supports prayed the Stations of the Cross on the main street leading to St. Peter's Square.

The video of the theft and news about it spread quickly on Twitter. Taylor Marshall, author of the book "Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within" and a frequent critic of the use of the statue, told Twitter followers "with great joy" that the images had been tossed into the river "as an act of obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ & in reparation to his Sacred Heart wounded by sin."

Others, however, expressed disgust at the theft and destruction of statues.

Catholic author Dawn Eden Goldstein tweeted, "A sick crime. The statue was in the church to represent life given us by God. Catholic churches are full of allegorical images -- pelicans, eagles, fish, human representations of virtues. Yet when Amazonian Catholics designate an image to represent their faith, they are 'pagan.'"

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Michael Caggiano
1 month ago

Huzzah to these fine men. Ridding the idols from the House of God.

Carlos Orozco
1 month ago

"The statues of a kneeling pregnant woman 'represented life, fertility, Mother Earth', Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, told reporters".

How are these not pagan idols!? If the Vatican is not interested in preserving the sanctity of a church, God give us all Catholics the courage of those two jealous servants of His.

Robert Lewis
1 month ago

Please explain: how does a statue of a pregnant woman undermine the "sanctity" of a church? How misogynist can you be? Don't you know that some of the greatest women saints were married, and, at one time pregnant? Ever heard of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary?

Kate Strong
1 month ago

I think Carlos is referring to the fact that they were said to be symbols of fertility, mother earth, etc. and the fact that they engaged in activity around the statues that looks like worship.

Carlos Orozco
1 month ago

Mysogynist? I would have said the same of a phallic statue of some male idol of fertility.

Again, the Vatican official said the statues of the kneeling pregnant woman "represented life, fertility, Mother Earth". Hmmmm... can't find anything Catholic about that, just pagananism. They could at least have called it "Sister Earth", to make the gullible associate it with St. Francis of Assisi. At the end of the day, why do they pray to these idols? Why openly violate the First Commandment in the heart of Catholicism?

Pierre Ordinaire
4 weeks ago

"At the end of the day, why do they pray to these idols? " At the end of the day, why pray to the cadavers of saints?

Robert Klahn
1 month ago

How the hell is a pregnant woman an idol? Or are you promoting abortion?

Life, fertility, those are pagan focus? Mother Earth? Yeah, just keep destroying the Earth and see where that leads.

Carlos Orozco
4 weeks 1 day ago

Why do they pray to it?
Who do they want to answer their prayers? Life, fertility or "Mother" Earth?

Robert Lewis
4 weeks 1 day ago

I guess then, that this is "phallic idol" to you puritanical philistine jokers:

http://www.michelangelomodels.com/images/statues/risen_christ/risen_christ_1.jpg

Robert Lewis
4 weeks 1 day ago

You also sound like the Protestant fanatics who call us Catholics "Mary worshippers."

Carlos Orozco
4 weeks 1 day ago

I "sound like" a Protestant fanatic? How so?
Because I am against PRAYING to PAGAN idols in church? If we Catholics don't raise hell over this, what could be next? Marina Abramovic spirit-cooking while Vatican officials watch in contemplation?

Robert Lewis
4 weeks ago

See below: the "Traditionalists" of Colombo alleged that the "liberal" pope was "praying" to the Buddha by allowing the Buddhist "dhaniya" ceremony to be incorporated into the mass. You have absolutely NO evidence that the Catholic faithful who had allowed the "pagan" idols into the church were "praying" to them--honoring indigenous spiritual "paths" maybe, attempting to "reconcile" them to Christianity--just as so many European pagan practices were "reconciled" to early Christianity--maybe, but NO "praying."

Carlos Orozco
4 weeks ago

Robert,
the article statues that the statues were used in daily "praying services". Paganism.

LAWRENCE HANSEN
1 month ago

Idols? Really? Anyone who has ever been a Roman Catholic Church has seen statues, carvings, etc., including those of naked men and women (cf. the Sistine Chapel, among numerous others). And while I don't dispute the Virgin Birth, no one that I know has ever argued that the Blessed Mother was not pregnant. Finally, as one who has been privileged to witness the miracle of birth, I see no salaciousness in these works. This makes me wonder about the writers who see something objectionable in the human body. A quick check of portraits of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding (https://churchpop.com/2014/08/10/31-beautiful-paintings-of-mary-nursing-the-baby-jesus/) should prove that most of the Church doesn't see a problem with nude or partially-nude women either. And if we believe--as I do--that Mary is the "Second Eve," the Mother of All Creation, how is it that these carvings are obscene?

--And yes, I do have testicles.

Carlos Orozco
1 month ago

Did you actually read what the statues represent?

Robert Klahn
1 month ago

I did, and I don't have a problem with it.

When my wife and I got married the priest left out a blessing. When I asked him why he said that blessing was for children to be born to the couple.

Since we were in our 50s he thought that might be redundant. I agreed.

So, we have a fertility blessing, but not a statue to stand by it?

Carlos Orozco
4 weeks 1 day ago

I thought Catholics were supposed to pray to GOD (or the Virgin/saints to INTERCEDE to God) for the blessing of fertility. Is it now acceptable to PRAY to goddess/idol "Fertility" and the likes in our churches?

Robert Lewis
4 weeks ago

As I wrote above, you have absolutely NO evidence that there was any "prayer" at all. Ever been to a late Gothic cathedral in Europe? You'll find images of Virgil, Aristotle and even demons/satyrs ("gargoyles") embedded in the architecture. What these comments on this thread are proving to me is that American Catholics are actually Protestant fundamentalists, with little or no understanding of the Catholic and Apostolic Church's traditions or her "pagan" philosophical heritage. These American "conservative Catholics" would be better served, spiritually, in a Bible-beating Protestant chapel, and not in a Christian Church whose exegitical and liturgical traditions are informed by philology and urbanity.

Carlos Orozco
4 weeks ago

Robert,
"The statues had been kept in several side chapels at the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina where PRAYER SERVICES (capitalizations are mine) connected to the synod have been held DAILY since the gathering began in early October."

Have you any account of early Christian churches using statues of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil or any Greek/Roman philosopher/artist for "prayer services"?

Robert Lewis
3 weeks 6 days ago

The mere presence of the symbol of another religion in a chapel reserved for devotion to the Christian God does not prove that "prayer" was being offered to the symbols of that other religion. And, yes, in fact, during the late Middle Ages and the High Renaissance, the pagan poet Virgil's "intercession" WAS, indeed, asked for during some Catholic masses. This was because Virgil was considered to be a prophet of the coming of Christ, on account of something he wrote in one of his "Eclogues." (See Dante for the Christianizing of Virgil.) What is being displayed here, by so many supposedly "traditionalist" Catholic commentators, is actually a LACK of spiritual faith, compared to the vibrantly self-confident Christianity of our European ancestors, who had no difficulty in rooting their faith almost as much in their Greek and Roman philosophic schools as in the Hebrew traditions of their Man-God. You people have been spooked by "liquid modernity," and you show it constantly by your hysterical over-reaction to even the tiniest bit of spiritual openness.

Carlos Orozco
3 weeks 6 days ago

In Dante's "Divine Comedy", Virgil is only allowed to accompany Dante in Hell and Purgatory because of course, in Medieval thinking, the Latin poet could not reach Heaven. Sorry, no intercession.

Thanks for your ethical posturing.

LAWRENCE HANSEN
4 weeks 1 day ago

This reminds me of an interchange my wife of 33 years had with our friend and Pastor Fr. Peter Roerig (now gone to God) as we were preparing for our Nuptial Mass. Knowing of our particular situation, Pete said that we could excise that particular affirmation from our vows. Because she truly is a daughter of God and a wise woman, she responded, "Pete, God can send children into our lives in many ways. Biological procreation is just one." As you might guess, the vow stayed in. Since then, we have been blessed to have had the opportunity to interact and offer support to many people whose lives have taken difficult turns. More than once, my wife has identified them as, "Children from God."

JOHN GRONDELSKI
4 weeks 1 day ago

Sorry, but the meaning of those statues is ambiguous and, despite requests for clarity, the Vatican's explanations remain ambiguous. (Unfortunately, the Pope is not traveling anywhere during the Synod, because we usually only get partial answers when he has a press conference at 35,000 feet). The Vatican has a responsibility to make clear what is going on with these statues at the Synod, not turn it into a Rorschach test, "what do YOU see?" Francis' jesuitical equivocation ("dialogue" except when he wants to beat up on somebody he thinks is too orthodox) is growing tiresome.

Robert Lewis
4 weeks 1 day ago

Oh you people who are horrified by "syncretism" have such a pathetic understanding of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, which was "syncretist" from the moment she began converting the European "pagans." I recall hearing the same kind of horror out of the mouths of Catholic fundamentalists in Sri Lanka, as they watch your favourite pope, "Saint" John Paul II (he of the Legionaries of Christ patronization), canonize Joseph Vaz on the beach in Colombo, because he allowed a Buddhist "dhaniya" (gift-bearing) ceremony to be incorporated into the mass. I "gently" (hehe!) reminded them that he had also canonized African saints with choirs of bare-breasted women chanting the "Missa Luba."

Your version of a "catholic" religion is so pathetically "non-universal."

Jim Smith
4 weeks ago

This story reminds me of the tale told of ancient missionaries to the pagan Germanic tribes. A huge tree was called Yggdrasil and believed to be an almighty God.
The tree was cut down, the god was dared to destroy them and when it became obvious it was just a tree, the tribe was converted.

Al Cannistraro
3 weeks 4 days ago

If you want to have a worldwide religion that appeals all the cultural masses, you need to be more flexible and forbearing. A church that appeals mainly to ultra-traditionalists is just a small, strange cult. Francis displays the savvy of a leader who has the big picture in mind, trying to preserve the future of a religion that is on the way out. Much of the future of the Church lies with cultures like that in the Amazon. Many people viewing this incident from a distance surely find the reaction from the far right laughable, especially given the role of imagery of "saints," etc., in Catholic culture.
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50189559
https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/pope-francis-apologizes-bishop-rome-vandalism-indigenous-statues

Andrew Strada
3 weeks 4 days ago

Obviously, since the statues floated, they must be witches.

Jim Smith
3 weeks 4 days ago

One of the wood things is a representation of "World Mother", the goddess within a pantheon of gods and goddesses.
Displaying it in a Christian church is equivalent to doing the same with an icon of Kali or Aphrodite.
This is not trivial but it could be worse, they could have been depicting Lilith, who by the way, is a new old favourite of goddess worshippers of the New Age. .

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Pope Francis.]

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