A Brazilian bishop said that Pope Francis’ Oct. 4 ceremony in the Vatican gardens prior to the opening of the Amazon Synod, where people prostrated themselves before a wooden statue of a naked pregnant woman (Pachamama), constituted a “scandalous, demonic sacrilege.”
“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,” said Bishop Emeritus José Luis Azcona Hermoso of the Brazilian city of Marajó said in an Oct. 20 homily at the cathedral in the state of Pará.
To the applause of the congregation, the bishop added, nearly shouting: “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 in the homily.
The Spanish-born bishop said that a genuine illumination from the Holy Spirit, which “our dear Pope Francis has mentioned so often,” is required to understand the much-debated synod. “We should distinguish between what comes from Satan or from the human mind, from what is of the Holy Spirit. This discernment is fundamental in order to belong to the Church and even more so to evangelize.”
Azcona recalled that REPAM [Pan Amazon Church Network], a Catholic network that largely prepared the Amazon Synod and which is presided over by Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, held a meeting in Brasilia, months before the synod, in which were held “indigenous rituals with invocations and prayers in which some bishops participated.”
“These are fundamental issues, and here in Amazonian we know the meaning of macumba or condomblè, which are quite prevalent here.” Widespread in northeastern Brazil, macumba and condomblè are afro-Brazilian cults that involve propitiation of various gods and goddesses, dances, incantations and sacrifices.
On Friday, Pope Francis confirmed that the controversial statues of a nude pregnant woman at the Vatican Gardens ceremony, and then processed into St. Peter’s Basilica and kept at a side altar at the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, symbolize the “Pachamama.” This was despite earlier affirmations by Vatican spokesmen that the statues represented the value of human life. Referring to the statues’ removal from the Traspontina church, the Pope asked pardon for those offended. He informed the synod that Italian police had recovered the statues that had been thrown into the River Tiber.
During his homily, Azcona also spoke of the spiritual dangers of incorporating native rituals and cosmology to Catholic liturgy and practice. He lamented that “nowhere in the Instrumentum Laboris is there talk of the presence of demons or their influence, of their wickedness in people, peoples and cultures, as well as the victory of Christ, His liberation and destruction of the power of the Malignant.” He cautioned that the Church is on the brink of schism.
Observers have noted that high-ranking clergy have been caught participating in pagan rites long before the just-concluded Amazonian synod. In 2015, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravassi — who presides over the Pontifical Council for Culture — participated in a sacred circle dance to reverence Pachamama, organized by the Ecumenical Social Forum in San Marcos Sierras, a village in the Argentine province of Cordoba. Also participating was Sister Maria Teresa Varela, the vice-president of the Forum.
Equalling Bishop Azcona’s condemnation was Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan. In an open letter, Bishop denounced the Pachamama statue at the Amazon Synod. On Saturday, he called on all Catholics to protest the idol’s presence at the Vatican and to offer reparation for the offense caused by what he called a “new golden calf.” In the Old Testament, the Israelites who waited for the return of Moses and the Ten Commandments from Mount Zion, but worshipped an idol in place of the true God.
Schneider wrote: “Syncretism and paganism are like poisons entering the veins of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.”
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