Maike Hickson

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Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer mk-online.de / Youtube screen grab

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German bishop criticizes use of Pachamama statues at Amazon Synod

Maike Hickson Maike Hickson Follow Maike
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A boat carrying a wooden statue of a naked woman with child ('Pachamama') is carried by indigenous people in St. Peter's Basilica during the opening ceremony for the Amazon Synod, Rome, Oct. 7, 2019. Vatican News / video screen grab
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Pope Francis receives Pachamama during pagan rite in Vatican Gardens prior to opening of Amazon Synod, Oct. 4, 2019.

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November 1, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, Germany delivered a homily yesterday in which he criticized the use of the Pachamama statues during the recently concluded Amazon Synod in Rome along with the proposal at the Synod of allowing married priests for the Amazon region.

With regard to both themes, Bishop Voderholzer asked, “does the Christian message bring something new or does it merely confirm and sanctify that which is already present and tradition?” 

He asked whether it is the right thing to “carry into the realm of the Church pagan statues” without them being transformed into Christian symbols – as it happened with the Thor Oak that Boniface chopped down and carved into a cross. Concretely, Bishop Voderholzer referred  to “our case of the veneration of natural fertility in the form of the personified Mother Earth, the 'Pachamama'.”

The homily was delivered on the Feast Day of St. Leonard, the patron saint of Voderholzer's Diocese of Regensburg.

Voderholzer pointed out that it was Christ Himself who brought “newness” because He brings Himself (St. Irenaeus of Lyon).

In his “newness,” Jesus Christ walks toward the “'natural' religiosity” of all men, but then “purifies it at the same time and gives them the unsurpassable, divine answer.” “In Christ,” Voderholzer continued, “all religions are 'lifted up,' 'lifted up' in a three-fold sense: abolished, lifted up, and preserved.”

As an example, Voderholzer quoted Origen who pointed out that the Jews took golden vessels and statues referring to the cult of the Pharaohs from Egypt but then melted them and turned them into golden vessels honoring the God of Israel.

Furthermore, the German bishop also refers to St. Boniface, the Apostle of the Germans, “who, for example, also did not completely adopt the cult of the Germans.” 

“Boniface did not dance around and embraced the Thor Oak – the cult object of the Germanic world of gods – but, rather, he felled it and made out of its wood a cross and a St. Peter's chapel,” the bishop continued. “A wonderful image for the implantation of the newness of the Gospel into the continuity and discontinuity of that which was there before!”

The fear of the gods was replaced with a God of love who opened up heaven for man.

Voderholzer concluded that “without a certain breach with the past, Christ's newness cannot be gained.”

With reference to Martin Luther — for whom the Catholic approach to pagan things had already gone too far – along with the desire for ecumenism — Bishop Voderholzer explicitly warned against welcoming pagan idols into the Catholic Church. He said that the “sensibility with regard to ecumenism should protect us from carrying pagan sculptures into the realm of the Church” without previous transforming them – either by melting them and turning them into new objects, or by using them to create Christian crosses (“Umschmelzung” and “Durchkreuzung”).

With regard to the Pachamama statues — that people prostrated themselves before in the Oct. 4 ceremony in the Vatican Gardens at which Pope Francis was present prior to the opening of the Amazon Synod — Voderholzer stated that “it was not apparent that the figures that we are talking about had undergone the transformation and purification – from a natural piety toward a Marian devotion in light of the history of salvation – as earlier Catholic missionaries had done it.”

Otherwise, he added, such practices “would provide arguments against the Catholic Church” for the evangelical and pentecostal missionaries who are “very active and successful in Latin America.”

Bishop Voderholzer also rejected the idea of allowing married priests for the Amazon region.

“And about the celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven of those who were called to the imitation of Christ,” he explained, “this form of living which was the form of living of Jesus and of the Apostles, was at all times and at all places a provocation and a challenge! First of all already in Palestine at the time of Jesus Himself.”

Voderholzer stated in his homily that the calls at the Amazon Synod for a change of this priestly discipline are “clear in their objectives” and insisted that regional solutions are here not possible since we are dealing with the Universal Church.

To those “young men who hear the call of Jesus to the special imitation [of Christ] and who are now understandably confused” by the messages coming out of the Amazon Synod, Voderholzer said: “Let yourself not be confounded!”

Finally, he also rejected the recent statement made by Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck who questioned the Church's ban on the female priesthood. Voderholzer insisted that it would have been Overbeck's duty not to question the Church's teaching, saying that the “task and duty” of a bishop should be to “present the binding teaching of the Catholic Church.”

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.