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Cardinal Blase Cupich Claire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

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US Cardinal Cupich defends use of ‘Pachamama’ idol during Amazon Synod

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CHICAGO, November 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Archbishop Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago defended the use of the “Pachamama” statues during the Amazon Synod, saying the church has “always adopted pagan elements in its traditions and especially its liturgical rites” while quoting from a Vatican document about “inculturation.”

Writing in the diocesan newspaper Chicago Catholic on Wednesday, Cardinal Cupich asserted that the “artwork” at the Vatican depicting Pachamama — a fertility goddess venerated by indigenous people of South America — was merely “a pregnant woman, a symbol of motherhood and the sacredness of life, that represents for indigenous peoples the bond humanity has with our “mother earth,” much as St. Francis of Assisi portrayed in his Canticle of the Creatures.” Cupich was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in November 2016. 

Catholics around the world were outraged last month to see a pagan ceremony take place in the Vatican Gardens before the opening of the Amazon Synod where people bowed down to the ground and worshiped the Pachamama idol as Pope Francis and other top-ranking prelates looked on. The October 4 ritual, captured on video, shows Pope Francis blessing the pagan statue before receiving it as a gift. 

On October 21, several replicas of the statues were seized from Santa Maria in Traspontina Church near St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and thrown into the Tiber River. On Oct. 25, Pope Francis asked “pardon of the people who were offended by this act” and referred to the wooden artifacts as “Pachamama statues.”

Alexander Tschugguel, 26, of Vienna, Austria, revealed November 4 that he was the young man who seized the statues and threw them in the river.

“I saw in those statues and in those idols … a break of the First Commandment,” he said, adding that he was motivated by the desire to “bring pagan things out of a Catholic Church.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns the worship of idols.

“Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, ‘You cannot serve God and mammon.’ Many martyrs died for not adoring ‘the Beast’ refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.”

In the Nov. 6 article, Cupich, who has defended giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians and to active homosexuals, said the removal of the statues “outraged many people” before outlining what he called the “church’s approach as it engages such cultures.”

Eight prominent cardinals and bishops have condemned the pagan “Pachamama” rituals at the Vatican, calling them "appalling idolatrous profanations," “demonic sacrilege,” and “alien to Christianity.” 

American Jesuit priest and EWTN host Fr. Mitch Pacwa on Tuesday added his voice in condemning the “worship” of the Pachamama statues. 

“The introduction of the Pachamama into the Synod on the Amazon is something that is a major scandal,” he said on his EWTN “Scripture and Tradition” show. “We are forbidden to have idols. We are forbidden to worship other gods.”  

Pacwa, who is familiar with Pachamama worship from his work in Peru, was not impressed by the attempts of the Vatican’s Communications team to spin the figures as mere symbols of fertility and motherhood.

“Knock it off,” he said. “We’re not stupid. We’re not. This is an idol.”

The priest told his audience that “Pachamama was still adored and worshiped in Peru, especially in the mountains."  

“She was part of a hierarchy of deities,” Pacwa explained.  

“The gods of the mountains were the chief deities. Pachamama, or Mother Earth, was under them. Below Pachamama were Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints. And then the rest of us. So they had integrated Pachamama into a pseudo-Catholic view of the world.”

Pacwa stressed that there is only one God -- one God in three Persons -- the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “There is no other god!” he said. 

Later in Cupich’s article, he quoted St. John Henry Newman about the “approach” to other cultures.

“In his 1878 ‘Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine,’ he noted that the church has always adopted pagan elements in its traditions and especially its liturgical rites,” wrote Cupich and then quotes Newman as follows: 

“The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees, incense, lamps and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water, asylums; holy days and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields, sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the east, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the Kyrie Eleison, are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the church.”

“I was pleased that a Vatican spokesman cited this passage in response to the vandalism in Rome,” commented Cupich. 

Juan Antonio Varas of the Brazil-based Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute, part of the Tradition, Family and Property movement, pointed out that the objects listed by St. John Henry Newman were only “adopted by Catholic worship after having been exorcised from evil spirits with purifying water and Catholic rituals.”

“But it is an adoption made with great wisdom and acute Catholic discernment. In doing so, the Church shows herself open to how much she can sacralize and embellish her worship, giving it meaning and authentic symbolism in the service of the truths she professes, without ever letting herself be confused or syncretized,” he wrote. 

“In fact, the Church has never adopted idols, let alone if they were represented naked. Otherwise, the churches of the Mediterranean should be full of Greek-Roman statues instead of altars with images of Madonnas and saints, paintings, frescoes and mosaics that have contributed so much to strengthening the faith of peoples,” he added.

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