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'Pachamama' statue on bridge over Tiber river prior to being thrown in, Rome, Oct. 21, 2019.

October 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Reacting to the Pachamama statues “splash” in the Tiber, the head of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, Andrea Tornielli, labeled the men who hurled into the river the Amazonian idols as “new iconoclasts”. The remark, being issued by such an outstanding figure, sounds bizarre. 

An act of iconoclasm presumes that the statues were in fact “icons”, which is to say, sacred. Just like a Madonna. Namely: not only relatively sacred (regarded as such by a particular people), but absolutely sacred, in a Catholic sense. Maybe, this is the reason why Pachamamas were exposed inside a church, alongside the Most Blessed Sacrament. 

But how can a pagan idol become a Catholic icon? 

The unchristian nature of those sculptures can be easily inferred: one may check on Wikipedia, a neutral (at least, not traditionalist Catholic) and easily accessible source, that Pachamama is a “fertility goddess”, part of the “Inca mythology”, more recently worshipped by New Age practices by means of a Sunday ritual that “includes invocations in Quechua”. It is hard to see how this worship might be reconciled with Catholicism – and didn’t Pope John Paul II explicitly condemn New Age?

One may question the decision to throw into the Tiber a set of statues, since that might appear disrespectful toward the spirituality of the Amazonian community. The Bible is clear as to the treatment that must be reserved to pagan idols (see, for instance, the Book of Deuteronomy). And yet, one might still refrain from undertaking such a provocative action. But it is a totally different business when it comes to the removal of those idols from a church by people who felt how inappropriate it was to put the Pachamamas inside Santa Maria in Traspontina.

Now, Andrea Tornielli is known not only as the head of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications but also for his videos on YouTube as a magician and a mentalist. Did this “parallel life” as a Matrix movie character, who can bend spoons by the force of his mind, mixed up his ideas on Catholicism? Does he believe that pagan statues are sacred icons?

Another ill-advised comment was issued on his Twitter account by Father Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica. Father Spadaro compared the men who “splashed” the Pachamamas in the Tiber to ISIS extremists who wasted artworks in Iraqi museums. In his view, the motivation was the same: in both cases, the zealots wanted to destroy “idols” as “different representations of God”. 

Again, Spadaro’s contention has worrying implications. First, that Catholicism (which, as a priest, he is expected to regard as the true religion) is as unqualified to identify pagan symbols as “idols” as Islam (which Spadaro would be expected to regard as a false religion). Second, that there is no difference between exposing ancient sculptures in an archeological museum and putting a pagan “Mother Earth” inside a church, and that consequently any catholic who withdraws the statues from the chapel is tantamount to a Muslim terrorist who destroys historical masterpieces. Third, that Pachamama, a goddess invented by Inca mythology and worshipped by New Age faithful is a “different representation of God”. Does it mean that polytheism is just another way to be Catholic? 

The story is funny (not to say sad, actually) because a few weeks ago, when the Italian Minister of Education, Lorenzo Fioramonti (Five Stars Movement) released an interview declaring that the crucifix should be removed from public school classrooms, the Bishop of Monreale (Sicily), Monsignor Michele Pennisi, asked to reply by a national radio, told that Fioramonti’s proposal is wrong in that it would be “a favor to the League” (namely, the party leaded by the nationalist politician Matteo Salvini, former vice prime minister). So, Italian clergymen blame as Islamic executioners Catholics offended by the “sanctification” of pagan symbols, but they defend the crucifix only because anticatholic campaigns might boost a right-wing party’s consensus. What a puzzling order of priorities.