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Key Amazon Synod organizer calls for Pachamama to be ‘integrated’ into Catholic liturgy

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Bishop Erwin Kräutler of Xingu, Brazil, speaks at a Vatican press briefing during the Amazon Synod on Oct. 10, 2019. Jim Hale / LifeSiteNews

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November 1, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A bishop who was a key organizer of the recently concluded Amazon Synod in Rome said in an interview that the pagan “Pachamama” statues that were present throughout the synod should be “integrated” into Catholic liturgy.

At an October 30 presentation of his new book, Renewal Now (2019), Bishop Erwin Kräutler commented upon the Amazon Synod in general, but also on the controversy over the presence of Pachamama statutes at some ceremonies in the Vatican.

The German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost reported on his words and quoted him as saying that the Pachamama statues were a “form of expression of the indigenous people,” which could be “integrated into our liturgy.” 

Speaking to an audience in Bregenz, Austria, the bishop said, though unspecifically, that “there are people who think that Pachamama is a goddess.” He strongly condemned both the removal of these statues from a Church in Rome and also the fact that they were then thrown into the Tiber River, calling this act “a brutal attack on the indigenous peoples.” 

Bishop Kräutler is the bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Xingu, Brazil, where he was the bishop from 1981 until 2015. 

Further commenting upon the people who brought the Pachamama statues to Rome, the bishop said that they were “Catholic Christians who are far from adoring her as a divinity.” It is, according to him, a symbol of fertility.

“And if it is for many a divinity, then it is an attack upon the soul of a people to throw them into the Tiber,” he concluded, indicating that the statues could represent a goddess.

In his talk in Bregenz, the Austrian prelate also once more advocated for the idea of ordaining “personae probatae,” e.g., not only morally proven married men, but also women. For him, this is a “question of gender equality.” He admitted in an interview with the Tagespost, however, that the ordination of women would be an obstacle to the ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox churches. “That is one of the biggest problems,” he explained. 

With regard to the possibility of ordaining men and women also in Europe, Kräutler stated that “there are many well-prepared pastoral assistants (male and female), who should receive the chance [to be ordained].”

Finally, the bishop denied having said that he had never baptized an indigenous person and does not plan to do so. He called this claim “complete nonsense” and a rumor that was intentionally spread. “I said years ago that we need to have a Catholic Church with an indigenous face. It is not about baptizing indigenous people, nor to think that they thereby stop being indigenous people and then are Christians.” He said that he himself has baptized thousands of indigenous people.

A fellow Austrian missionary priest, Father Franz Helm, had quoted Bishop Kräutler in June of this year with these words: “I have not yet baptized an indigenous person and I do not intend of ever doing so.” Moreover, Helm who worked in Brazil from 1987 until 1993 quoted these words of Kräutler approvingly, since he himself shares the critical view of Christianity's history in Latin America with the bishop. Helm's comments were published by the website of the Catholic Church in Austria. He himself also stated that he does not try to convert people to the Catholic Faith, but, instead, they would have to show interest in the Faith by themselves.

In remarks to LifeSite in June of 2019, Helm explained that, in the 1990s, when he was the general secretary of Missio Austria (a pontifical missionary work), this quote from Bishop Kräutler “was transmitted to me.” He also explained that as long as “Christianity is not inculturated” in the Amazon region, “an Indian can hardly be also a Christian at the same time. Because, in order to become a Christian, an Indian has to give up his Indian being.” As examples, he pointed to the Roman Liturgy along with social forms and offices that are not sufficiently adapted to the Indian culture. 

In June of this year, LifeSite also reached out to Bishop Kräutler, asking him to confirm or deny his above-quoted words. He never responded.

However, LifeSite obtained an April 13, 1992 article in the Austrian Catholic conservative newspaper Der Dreizehnte which quoted the bishop as saying the same words.

Thus, Kräutler has been recurrently quoted with these words for decades, from both progressives and conservatives, and he has never denied them, not even in June of this year, except now.

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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.