Thieves steal Amazon fertility statues as synod nears end
Vatican City: Pope Francis' controversial meeting on the Amazon took a criminal twist on Monday after thieves stole indigenous fertility statues from a Vatican-area church and tossed them into the Tiber River.
Video of the pre-dawn theft from the Santa Maria in Traspontina church was shared and celebrated on conservative social media. The Vatican's communications czar, Paolo Ruffini, termed it a "stunt" that violated the idea of dialogue.
Even before the three-week Amazon synod opened on October 6, conservative and traditionalist Catholics had blasted its agenda as a heretical celebration of paganism, given its deference to indigenous cultures and spirituality.
Their criticism reached a fever pitch at the synod opening, when Francis presided over a prayer service in the Vatican gardens featuring the statues of naked pregnant women that were presented to the pope.
Conservatives said the "Pachamama" statutes were pagan idols; the Vatican said they were symbols of life and fertility.
The statues were then placed in a side chapel of the Traspontina church, which is located just steps from St Peter's Square and has been the headquarters of the indigenous celebrations organized alongside the synod.
There was no official claim of responsibility for the thefts, but a conservative U.S. author, Taylor Marshall, issued a statement and tweeted the video of it.
"I announce to you with great joy: the Pachamama idols that polluted the Church of St Maria Traspontina have been cast away into the Tiber River as an act of obedience to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ & in reparation to His Sacred Heart wounded by sin," Marshall tweeted.