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False Worship at John Paul II Cultural Center?

Both traditionalist critics and anti-Catholic fundamentalists have pointedly targeted this event. They ask, “What the heck is going on here? How can this be happening? Is there some mistake, something we are missing?” Usually they also add comments like “I told you so.”  While I am somewhat in the dark about this, I felt that some response should be made.


What is it that we see? Here is Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Papal Nuncio to the United States, lighting a Hindu devotional lamp (upon a traditional Indian rangoli) before two idols of Hindu deities. A rangoli is a painting claimed by Hindus as fashioned by the pagan Brahma deity. I have to wonder, “Was he led to view this ceremonial as a secular symbolism for peace?” Such must be the case.

Either things are not as they seem or he was momentarily deceived by the hosts, who were themselves ignorant of Catholic teaching and practice. The nuncio is a good and holy shepherd. I have no doubt about this. Nevertheless, I can understand perplexed souls left shaking their heads as to how one could do something that would ordinarily be judged as an active participation in false worship. Is it not an unspeakable Brahmanism?

lampsm.gifI am reminded of the diwali lamp that the Hindus use at festival. What we have here is similar, an Indian oil lamp. I am at a loss for words to explain it. I am well aware of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. I regularly receive their newsletter and mailings. Dialogue to preserve the peace and to work together on projects important to the community I can understand. But we cannot join in pagan prayer with idol worshippers and polytheists.

nuncioblwhite.jpgThe photograph here was taken at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, a defunct museum now desperately searching for bookings and income to pay the forty million dollar debt of its construction.

This was the IFC’s 2nd Annual Bridge Builders Awards, honoring Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus who have performed outstanding “inter-religious” work. Archbishop Sambi helped to present the awards and engaged in a “private” discussion with the guests.


Dialogue is one thing, but lighting the candle was a definite mistake. I can only hope that the Catholics in attendance did not participate in any non-Christian verbal prayers. It is bad enough that a place dedicated to the late Pope should be contaminated by false worship and idols.

The meaning of the diwali-deepavali lamp varies from place to place. While used at festival, it can also be employed at special celebrations and when awards are given. It is meant to enhance the atmosphere of joy and festivity. The demon king of Lanka is fought off and the divine king Rama and Sita his queen return from exile. A row of lights is an invitation to Laxmi Pooja, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. The lamp reminds the Hindu believer that enlightenment and illumination are the goals of life. When used as part of the calendar festival, other deities are invoked on different days. The lamps are symbolic of a spiritual light pervading the world and destroying darkness and ignorance.

Notice here the two idols on the table during the lighting of the lamp. Call me stupid, but I cannot think of any defense for what happened. It was a major miscalculation and those who oppose the post-Vatican II Church are having a field-day with it.


The Hindu cultural meanings and themes are all very interesting, but also very pagan and unchristian. I hope the Vatican will offer some explanation for this happening. Have we not learned anything from that interfaith fiasco at Fatima some years ago?

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ADDENDUM: Closeup View of One of the Statues


Does anyone recognize it? The opposite one looks similar.

Debate on IFC’s 2007 Bridge Builders Confusion, Part 1

Debate on IFC’s 2007 Bridge Builders Confusion, Part 2