The Vatican’s former head of doctrine has warned that “hundreds of thousands” of Catholics from the Amazon region will leave the Church as a result of being scandalized by seeing videos of the pagan idol “Pachamama” being worshiped in ceremonies during the recently-concluded Amazon Synod in Rome.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, 71, told Die Tagespost, a German Catholic newspaper, that photographs of the “Pachamama” carvings used during celebrations at the recent Synod on the Pan-Amazonian have exacerbated anti-Catholic feelings in the region and will spark a mass exodus.
“This whole sad story will give support to many aggressive, anti-Catholic sects in South America and elsewhere who in their polemics maintain that Catholics are idol worshipers and that the Pope who they obey is the Antichrist,” Müller said.
“Hundreds of thousands of Catholics in the Amazon area and wherever the videos of this Roman spectacle have been seen will leave the Church in protest,” he continued.
“Did anyone think about these consequences or did they just assume this was collateral damage?”
In a previous interview with Die Tagespost, the cardinal praised the actions of Alexander Tshugguel, the young Austrian layman who removed five copies of the “Pachamama” statue from the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina and threw them into the Tiber River.
The mysterious wooden figures, which were eventually identified by Pope Francis as “pachamamas,” were used in ceremonies in the Vatican Gardens, in churches and in a Roman street. In a ceremony held in the Vatican Gardens on October 4, worshippers prostrated themselves before the images. On this and other occasions, they danced around them.
The cardinal stated that these ceremonies could not be explained away as an exercise in inculturation.
“You cannot downplay the fuss, which was sponsored by many Euros, as inculturation, or respect for other cultures, or even recognize the painted female fertility figures as a pro-life symbol,” he said.
The cardinal drew a boundary between the veneration of Christian saints and the worship of pagan symbols. He said representations of the saints and their relics are only “remembrances” of them, and they are honored as witnesses of God’s grace. They are not worshipped and glorified as if they were God.
The worship of idols has no place within the Catholic faith. Suggesting that some of the people who took place in the Pachamama rituals in Rome might not have been Catholic, the cardinal said they had no right to perform “their pagan or non-Catholic rites” in Catholic liturgies.
Müller also quoted St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, saying “that no idolator has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:5 ).
The use of the Pachamama statues was condemned by a number of other prelates, including Bishop Emeritus José Luis Azcona Hermoso of the Brazilian city of Marajó.
“Mother Earth should not be worshipped because everything, even the earth, is under the dominion of Jesus Christ. It is not possible that there are spirits with power equal or superior to Our Lord or of the Virgin Mary,” the Bishop Emeritus stated in an Oct. 20 homily at the cathedral in the state of Pará.
Addressing a suggestion by an English journalist that the wooden images represented the Blessed Virgin Mary, Azcona said,“Pachamama is not and never will be the Virgin Mary. To say that this statue represents the Virgin is a lie. She is not Our Lady of the Amazon because the only Lady of the Amazon is Mary of Nazareth. Let’s not create syncretistic mixtures. All of that is impossible: the Mother of God is the Queen of Heaven and earth.”
“The invocation of the statues before which even some religious bowed at the Vatican (and I won’t mention which congregation they belong) is an invocation of a mythical power, of Mother Earth, from which they ask blessings or make gestures of gratitude. These are scandalous demonic sacrileges, especially for the little ones who are not able to discern,” he added later.
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