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A Synod & an Uncomfortable Pope

157358893444805185 (2)Despite attestations to the contrary, the images and video recordings of rituals around the “pachamama” statues at the Amazon synod has led to charges of idolatry and has ironically damaged efforts at evangelization. Indeed, many of the evangelical Protestants and/or Pentecostals (who are making converts in droves) are now pointing to this scandal as so-called proof that Catholicism is not a genuine form of Christianity. It may be that so much attention was given to the orchestration of the dialogue and documents that insufficient guidance was given to the scandalous indigenous images and questionable rituals that many wrongly felt were the fluff of the synod.

I mentioned in a previous posting that “Some have suggested that given the charges of syncretism and idolatry leveled at the peripheral activities around the synod deliberations, any conclusions from the conferences forfeit credibility and importance for any later papal exhortation or summary based upon them.” Rather than a message that is conditioned by culture; should we not be emphasizing the Gospel as a counter-cultural proclamation anywhere and everywhere? Speaking for myself, I find it hard to believe that the pope, cardinals, bishops and priests involved with the Amazon synod intended to be complicit with any sinful act of idolatry. It is my suspicion that the designated handlers for the side-event either lacked the theological sophistication to appreciate the ramifications of certain elements or else the ceremonials got quickly out of their control. It is evident that many of those involved or in attendance were confused about what was happening.

Various contradictory explanations were offered by churchmen that also conflicted with the expressed paganism spelled out by the indigenous people given charge. The “pachamama” images were errantly detailed as images of the Virgin or as depictions of Mary and Elizabeth at the Visitation or as symbols for life. However, it became increasingly clear that critics condemning this as idolatry were apparently correct. Subsequent remarks by involved churchmen and even by the Pope were efforts at damage control. The worry about the theft and the discarding of the images was that the indigenous people invited to the synod would feel insulted or hurt.

Note in the garden ceremony the pope did not sit in what appeared to be a presider’s chair but deliberately sat with other observers. He looked uncomfortable. When presented with a black tucum ring (associated with liberation theology) he quickly took it off. Notice also the posture of the Holy Father during the garden service. He tended to cast his eyes downward, toward his feet. When presented with the “pachamama” he hesitated in blessing it and instead crossed himself. When there was some insistence that he receive the object, he made a small sign of the cross over it. Was he blessing the object, as he does routinely for so many things presented to him, or was he trying both not to offend and to offer a minor exorcism over the statue? He set aside anticipated comments so as to avoid making any statement pro or con. Did the pope’s heart go out to those involved, confident that they meant well and not desiring to humiliate them publicly? Might he had forgiven them as little children dancing in a circle and playing a game of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”? However, the ambiguity of his actions and the clear syncretistic idolatry of the participants was certainly scandalous. The shaman would make the sign of the cross several times herself but the mixture of pagan and Christian piety would not give the activity legitimacy. While there was no “idolatrous intent” on the Pope’s part (as he says); this cannot be said for everyone else involved. The activity that was enabled was arguably wrong and a matter of serious sin.

While it might seem unbelievable, the Italian Episcopal Conference published its own pagan prayer to Pachamama back in April 2019.  Entitled, “Prayer to Mother Earth of the Inca Peoples,” it is as follows:

“Pachamama of these places, drink and eat this offering at will, so that this earth may be fruitful. Pachamama, good Mother, be favorable (propitiated)! Be favorable (propitiated)! Make that the oxen walk well, and that they not become tired. Make that the seed sprout well, that nothing bad may happen to it, that the cold may not destroy it, that it produce good food. We ask this from you: give us everything. Be favorable (propitiated)! Be favorable (propitiated)!”

Aside from the question of who is or is not complicit, it is in light of such paganism that we must turn to genuine Christian prayer and make reparation.

Here is an oration recommended by a holy churchman:

Recommended by Bishop Athanasius Schneider

imagesMost Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, receive through the hands of the Immaculate Mother of God and Ever Virgin Mary from our contrite heart a sincere act of reparation for the acts of worship of wooden idols and symbols during the Synod for the Amazon, which occurred in Rome, the Eternal City, the heart of the Catholic world. Pour out in the heart of Our Holy Father Pope Francis, of the Cardinals, of the Bishops, of priests and lay faithful, your Spirit, who will expel the darkness of their minds, so that they might recognize the impiety of such acts, which offended your Divine majesty and offer to you public and private acts of reparation.

Pour out in all members of the Church the light of the fullness and beauty of the Catholic Faith. Enkindle in them the burning zeal of bringing the salvation of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, to all men, especially the people in the Amazon region, who still are enslaved in the service of feeble material and perishable things, as the deaf and mute symbols and idols of “mother earth.” Enkindle the light of faith in those persons, especially in the persons of the Amazonian tribes who do not yet possess the liberty of the children of God, and who do not have the unspeakable happiness of knowing Jesus Christ and having in Him a participation in the life of your Divine nature.

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are the one true God, besides Whom there is no other god and no salvation, have mercy on your Church. Look especially upon the tears and contrite and humble sighs of the little ones in the Church. Look upon the tears and prayers of the little children, of the adolescents, of young men and young women, of the fathers and mothers of families and also of the true Christian heroes, who in their zeal for your glory and in their love for Mother Church threw into the water the symbols of abomination which defiled her. Have mercy on us: spare us, O Lord, parce Domine, parce Domine! Have mercy on us: Kyrie eleison! Amen.

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