ROME (CNS): Two men entered the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina near the Vatican early on October 21 and stole copies of a statue of a pregnant woman that had been a centrepiece of several prayer services connected to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.
In a video shared with bloggers and Catholic news outlets that have complained about the statue being a pagan symbol, the two men set the statues on the railing of a bridge over the Tiber River and knocked them in, watching them float away.
Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, explained to reporters that the statues of a kneeling pregnant woman “represented life, fertility, Mother Earth.”
Stealing the statues and throwing them in the river, he said, “is a gesture that contradicts the spirit of dialogue.”
Ruffini said, “I don’t know what else to say except that it was a theft and perhaps that speaks for itself.” Police are investigating the theft.
The statues had been kept in several side chapels at the church where prayer services connected to the synod have been held daily since the gathering began in early October.
The statue was present on October 4 when Pope Francis planted a tree in the Vatican gardens and entrusted the synod to St. Francis of Assisi. It was used again on October 7 during a prayer and procession from the Basilica of St. Peter to the Vatican synod hall and early on October 19 as synod members and supports prayed the Stations of the Cross on the main street leading to St. Peter’s Square.
Taylor Marshall, a former Episcopalian priest who entered the Catholic Church in 2006, told his Twitter followers “with great joy” that the images had been tossed into the river. A frequent critic of the use of the statue and author of the book, Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within, he called the incident “an act of obedience to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ & in reparation to his Sacred Heart wounded by sin.”
Others, however, expressed disgust at the theft and destruction of statues.
Catholic author, Dawn Eden Goldstein, tweeted, “A sick crime. The statue was in the church to represent life given us by God. Catholic churches are full of allegorical images—pelicans, eagles, fish, human representations of virtues. Yet when Amazonian Catholics designate an image to represent their faith, they are ‘pagan’.”