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Guest commentary by Bishop Athanasius Schneider
November 20, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – On October 4, 2019, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, in the presence of Pope Francis and other high ecclesiastical dignitaries, there was held a ceremony in the Vatican Gardens that was clearly religious in character, as stated in the Vatican press release of October 4, 2019: “During the prayer ceremony, concluding the ‘Season of Creation’ initiative promoted recently by Pope Francis, a tree from Assisi was planted as a symbol of integral ecology, to consecrate the Synod on Amazonia to Saint Francis, shortly before the fortieth anniversary of the papal proclamation of the Poverello of Assisi at the patron of ecologists. At the end of the celebration the Holy Father recited the Lord’s Prayer. The ceremony was attended by representatives of indigenous populations from Amazonia, Franciscan brothers and various members of the Church“
What this statement has concealed is the fact that during this prayer ceremony, religious rites from the pagan religions of the Native Americans took place. There were gestures and words that expressed a religious worship of mythological figures of the aboriginal religion, above all, acts of prostration were performed in front of two naked pregnant female figures, which should represent fertility. There was also a religious dance performed around these figures, in which a woman dressed as a shaman used rattles that symbolized pagan fertility gods. The use of the “maracas” or rattles by the shaman means in the indigenous cults of Amazonia the voice of the spirits and they are used to claim the help of the power of the animals and the spirits. The “Maracas” are one of the most powerful magic instruments for these peoples. The head of the “Maraca” is a pumpkin, with the head of the rattle with the shaft represents the fertilization union of the male world (shaft) with the female world (head). Exactly such “maracas” were used at the “Prayer Ceremony” on October 4th.
The statues depicting naked pregnant women were then placed briefly in the Basilica of St. Peter in front of the Petrine tomb, again in the presence of the Pope, and then during the entire time of the Amazon Synod in the church of Santa Maria Traspontina on the Via della Conciliazione and were in regular prayer ceremonies worshiped in a church with a tabernacle and the Eucharistic presence of Christ. Furthermore, the statue of the naked pregnant woman was even carried on October 19 in a Way of the Cross organized by participants of the Synod.
In the first days after these ceremonies, the Vatican avoided mentioning the exact meaning of the two naked pregnant female figures. Only after these figures were removed on October 21 from the church of Santa Maria in Traspontina and thrown into the Tiber, Pope Francis himself announced on October 25 the identity of these figures, which should symbolize the Pachamama, saying: “I would like to say a word about the statues of Pachamama that were removed from the church in the Traspontina and were there without idolatrous intentions and thrown into the Tiber. This was first done in Rome, and as bishop of the diocese, I apologize for the people who are offended by this gesture.”
The Jesuit Father Fernando Lopez, one of the organizers of the veneration of the Pachamama statues in the Vatican, said that these statues were bought at a craft market in Manaus, a city in the Brazilian Amazon, adding that the Pachamama makes sense to all of us and that we should continue “the dance of life on Mother Earth”.
To declare all these acts of worship of the Pachamama statues, which always took place during a prayer ceremony and in churches, as non-cultic and not religious, but merely as an expression of culture and folklore and thus declare them as something harmless and trivial, denies the evidence and flees from reality.
In the face of the grave fact of such dubious acts of religious worship, which are obviously at least close to superstition and idolatry, some cardinals, bishops, priests, and many lay people have publicly protested, and some of them have even called Pope Francis to repent and make amends. Unfortunately, these brave voices are criticized even by righteous Catholics, often on the grounds that it personally attacks Pope Francis. Such a reasoning is very reminiscent of the story of the Emperor's new clothes. Others regard the worship of Pachamama statues as harmless and compare this issue to the dispute over the so-called Chinese rites (called the “accommodation dispute”) in the 17th and 18th centuries. Those who make such affirmations, lack both factual knowledge of what the Pachamama means to indigenous peoples and the worldwide propaganda of the new “Gaia or Mother Earth religion” today, as well as a more detailed knowledge of the historical problem of Chinese rites and their solution in the 20th century.
The fact that the phenomenon “Pachamama” has a clearly religious connotation already proves its definition in the generally accessible and most frequently consulted sources of information, such as, e.g., in Wikipedia, which states, “Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth/time mother. In Inca mythology, Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes. She is also an ever-present and independent deity who has her own self-sufficient and creative power to sustain life on this earth. Pachamama is usually translated as Mother Earth, but a more literal translation would be “World Mother” (in Aymara and Quechua). The Inca goddess can be referred to in multiple ways; the primary way being Pachamama. Other names for her are: Mama Pacha, La Pachamama, and Mother Earth. La Pachamama differs from Pachamama because the “La” signifies the interwoven connection that the goddess has with nature, whereas Pachamama – without the “La” – refers to only the goddess.“
Anyone who has dealt with the global environmental movement has undoubtedly heard the term Gaia. Gaia is a revival of paganism that rejects Christianity, views Christianity as its greatest enemy, and sees the Christian faith as the only obstacle to a global religion that focuses on the worship of Gaia and the unification of all forms of life concentrated around the goddess “Mother Earth“ or the “Pachamama”. A sophisticated mix of science, paganism, Eastern mysticism and feminism has made this pagan cult a growing threat to the Christian church. The worship of “Mother Earth”, or “Gaia” or “Pachamama” is the focus of today's global environmental policy.
The 2009 UN General Assembly proclaimed April 22 as International “Mother Earth Day”. On that day, Bolivian President Evo Morales, a self-proclaimed Pachamama worshiper, made this telling statement to the United Nations General Assembly: “’Pachamama’ – Quechua's ‘Mother Earth’ – is a fundamental deity of the Native world view, with is based upon a total respect for nature. The earth does not belong to us, but we belong to the earth”.
That the expression “Mother Earth” or “Pachamama” is not a harmless cultural name, but has religious traits, is proved, for example, also in a teacher's handbook published in 2002 by UNESCO with the significant title “Pachamama Teacher's Guide”. It states, inter alia: “Imagine, Mother Earth assumes a physical form and imagine what it would be like to meet with her. How would she look? What would you talk to her about? What would be your main concern and your questions? How would you answer them? Where could you meet her [Mother Earth]? Think of a place where you could meet them.” Such a place, for example, where one could meet “Mother Earth” or “Pachamama” in the guise of nude pregnant women carved as wooden figures, was the prayer ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on the mentioned October 4, 2019, St. Peter's Basilica, the Stations of the Cross Prayer on October 19 and the church of Santa Maria in Traspontina in Rome.
Bishop José Luis Azcona, emeritus bishop of the Amazonian Prelature Marajó, convincingly referred to the absurdity and untenability of the belittling of the Vatican's Pachamama worship. He is a connoisseur of the religions and customs of the Amazon Indians, lived among them for more than 30 years and evangelized them. In an open letter of November 1, 2019, Bishop José Luis Azcona pointed out that it was especially the “little ones” in the Church, and then also converts among the Amazonian Indians who live intensely the Catholic faith, who were scandalized by the Pachamama worship in the Vatican. They were confused and deeply hurt in their Catholic sense of faith. The following statement by Bishop José Luis Azcona causes dismay: “But this gesture [of Pachamama worship] was a scandal (and not pharisaic) to millions of Catholics throughout the world. Especially the poor, the ‘little ones’, the ignorant, the ‘weak,’ who apparently possess the ‘sensus fidei’ (the sense of faith) and are defended by Pope Francis justly and permanently, were severely struck in their unarmed conscience, completely defenseless against such religious violence. At least the poor, the simple, the ‘weak’, the unprotected of Amazonia are the most affected deep in their heart by this idolatrous stroke, which is an attack against the Christian faith, against the ecclesiastical conviction that the only queen of Amazonia is Our Lady of Nazareth, the Mother of God the Creator and the Redeemer. No other mother, no Pachamama of the Andes or from anywhere else and no Yemanja [mother goddess of Afro-Brazilian cults]!”.
Bishop José Luis Azcona also referred to the devastating impact that the public acts of Pachamama worship in the Vatican had on faithful Protestants: “For the Protestant and Pentecostal brothers, this scandal had a devastating effect. Horrified, they have witnessed scenes of true idolatry, and between amazement and astonishment they feel more and more confirmed in their erroneous view that the Catholic is a worshiper of idols, not of saints, of Joseph, Mary, but of true demons. In this way, the ecumenical-interreligious dialogue has been shaken with humanly irreparable consequences and grave ecumenical complications for those who want to understand the mystery of the Church as the “Universal Sacrament of Salvation” (Lumen Gentium). “
Bishop José Luis Azcona aptly stated that the idea and symbolism of Mother Earth, the “Gaia” and also the “Pachamama”, which is widespread today, can not be detached mentally and religiously from the phenomenon of the many historical pagan mother deities: “Let us remember the countless Mother Earth deities who preceded and accompanied the Pachamama as goddesses of fertility in all biblical cultures and religions. In the Old Testament, Astarte (Asherà) is the goddess of fertility, of sensual love in her nude portrayal. In the New Testament, Acts 19: 23-40; 20, 1, it is the Artemis of Ephesus, “the Great,” the goddess of fertility; she is depicted with half of her body full of breasts. She sums up what is meant by the statue of Mother Earth “Pachamama”. It is impossible to place the image of Our Lady of Nazareth, the Mother of God and the Church, and the statue of Pachamama, the goddess of fertility, upon the same altar or the same church. “
The comparison of Pachamama worship in the Vatican with the historical dispute of Chinese rites is factually untenable. The Chinese rituals involved acts of worshiping the image of Confucius, a historical person who was revered as a great national hero and thinker of the Chinese culture. Furthermore, it was about the worship of the deceased ancestors. In both cases before the portraits of these historical persons acts of veneration such as bowing or lighting candles were performed. Because these rites in the 17th and 18th centuries were still associated with superstitious beliefs of Confucianism as a religion, the Church has rigorously forbidden such rites to avoid any appearance of superstition and idolatry. In the twentieth century, the acts of veneration of Confucius were purely civil in nature and took place in non-sacral and non-religious places. Furthermore, the effigies of the ancestors were worshiped by the Catholics without the usual inscription “seat of the soul” as it was usual among the Chinese pagans. Thus, after any appearance of of superstition and idolatry ceased, the Holy See allowed the Chinese rites in 1939 by an Instruction of the Propaganda Fide Congregation, however, under the following conditions: one is allowed to make only a head bowing before a Confucius' picture displayed in the civil places, and if it is to be feared a scandal, the right intention of the Catholics must be publicly explained. Further, the Instruction says that Catholics may only make honorific attestations that are purely civil in nature, and if necessary, explain their intent to correct a misinterpretation of these acts. The same applies to the act of veneration of the portraits of the ancestors. Further, the Catholic Church has permitted the use of only the unequivocal divine name, “Lord of Heaven,” and forbade other ambiguous Chinese divine names, such as “Heaven” or “Supreme Deity” or “Supreme Emperor”, and this prohibition was not repealed by the 1939 Instruction.
The essential difference between the rites of Pachamama worship and the so-called Chinese rites is the fact that the Pachamama is a construct of pagan mythologies, i. e. it is worshiped as either a pure myth or an inanimate and impersonal conglomeration of matter, such as the earth.
Anyone who claims that the worship of Pachamama was harmless and had no religious, but only a cultural aspect, is better taught by a prayer to Pachamama published in the context of the Amazon Synod by the “Fondazione Missio”, an organ of the Italian Episcopal Conference, where it is said: “Pachamama, good mother, be propitious to us! Be propitious to! Let the seed taste good, that nothing bad happens, that frost should not disturb it, that it produces good food. We ask you: give us everything! Be propitious to us! Be propitious to us!”.
The Pachamama cult practiced in the Vatican during the Amazon Synod is either a form of idolatrous superstition because it contains gestures that in its original form imply the worship of the “mother earth” considered a deity, or it is a form of non-idolatrous superstition. For this Pachamama cult expresses the belief in the earth as a living and personal being, therefore, it is a syncretism that introduces deceptive elements into the Christian cult, which, after all, must always be directed towards the true God.
In an article on October 23, 2019, for Internetsite Infocatolica (www.infocatolica.com), Fr. Nelson Medina, OP, himself a Columbian Amazon missionary, unmasked the fraud of allegedly innocuous Pachamama worship with the following apt statement: “The image [the pachamama] brought to Rome is not representative of the Colombian Amazon, and I believe nowhere in the Amazon. The figure represents nothing of the ‘ancestors’ in the culture of the Amazon. And does our faith adore or worship cultically fertility, life or the woman as such? If they are not worshiped, why associate this worship with the altar, on which the unique and universal sacrifice of Christ is present? Is not this exactly a public, an scandalous public violation of the First Commandment of the Law of God? Bringing these statues to sacred places can only mean that they have a religious significance, as they would otherwise have been exhibited in an art gallery or museum of ethnic or Amazonian history.”
Vatican representatives also used St. John Henry Newman to legitimize the Pachamama worship with his help. However, this comparison is far-fetched and factually inaccurate, as Fr. Nelson Medina has convincingly put it, by showing that John Henry Newman was referring to some actions or objects that are relatively neutral in themselves, and then transformed in their meaning in order to be used in the church. The images designed for the Amazon Synod have nothing of this neutrality: celebrating “life” without worshiping God, the only Creator, is simple paganism. And among the pagan idols, be it the golden calf or the money of the merchants in the Temple of Jerusalem, decisive and clear measures are needed … which can reach even as far as the Tiber.
At all times, and also through the instruction of 1939 on the Chinese rites, the Catholic Church, in faithful imitation of the Apostles' behavior, was as it were scrupulously engaged in its words and actions, to avoid even any shadow both of idolatry (idolatria) and of superstition (superstitio) and not to give it the least appearance (see also St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theol., IIa IIae, q 93, a.1).
With Gianfranco Amato, an Italian lawyer and life-lawyer, the following can be summarized as regards the Pachamama worship in the Vatican (see his essay in “La Verità” of November 14, 2019):
“To portray Pachamama as an icon of the indigenous culture of the Amazon not only means distorting reality, but denying and humiliating the diversity of true Amazonian cultures in order to impose an indigenous theological vision for enforcing purely ideological and political purposes.
The Mexican President Lopéz Obrador has held a ritual in honor of the deity Pachamama to apply for permission to build the Mayan railway in southeastern Mexico. Hugo Chávez, Nicolas Maduro, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Evo Morales and Daniel Ortega are just a few heads of state who have officially participated in worship services in honor of Mother Earth. So, not only is it a purely Peruvian religious fact, but we are facing a real political fact that is inserted in a precise political agenda that promotes pantheistic thinking. It excludes the Christian idea of a transcendent God in relation to creation and places the dignity of the earth above the dignity of the human person. A Copernican Cultural Revolution is being attempted: to overcome the anthropocentrism of modernity with an ecological “geocentrism”. The earth and not the human being should now be at the center of the cosmos, to the point that we already hear speeches in which the limitation of human rights in favor of the “rights” of the earth is theorized.
The Pachamama is a theological deceit for Christians. As we have seen, it is a pagan Inka-deity. The images that reproduce it from a theological point of view are simply idols. The fact that a theologian, a priest, a bishop, a cardinal, a pope, or a simple believer can not recognize this apparently indisputable fact seems truly disturbing and completely incomprehensible. We could say that we are facing a new eclipse of conscience, this time not in the sphere of the law of life, but in the sphere of the first and most important commandment: in the rights of God. To this comes the aggravating circumstance that not only the conscience of a people, but the conscience of the Church itself is obscured by this cult of Pachamama. In the light of the divine revelation contained in the Word of God, in the Tradition of the Church and in the Magisterium, the question is very simple: to make idols for worship is a very grave sin. To prostrate themselves before idols is idolatry. Offering them gifts and sacrifices, carrying them in triumph, setting them on a throne, crowning them and burning them incense is a manifest idolatry that is utterly immoral. To put them on altars or in consecrated churches in order to worship them, is a true and plain desecration.
The Pachamama worship is a deception in terms of understanding tolerance. The sensitivity of the faithful seems rightly hurt when they experience the bleak spectacle of idols worshiped in Catholic churches. It is a deeply unpleasant fact that requires a strict condemnation. This is not a lack of respect or tolerance for people who profess a different religion. We respect everyone's religious beliefs, but this is about imposing tolerance for idolatry in Catholic churches and places desecrated by the presence of idols. That is not acceptable. To tolerate all this means to be accomplices of the desecration. For this reason, the gesture of “idoloclasmus” (destruction of idols), courageously carried out in the Roman church of Santa Maria in Transpontina, is the expression of the noblest faith. It is not the subject of slander but deserves praise.
The Pachamama worship is a deception of inculturation. The principle of inculturation is the proclamation of the Gospel, which can be welcomed by all peoples of all cultures. The dynamism of evangelization leads to a gradual process of transformation of the culture that welcomes the Word of God, and penetrates into the heart of the same culture through the maintenance of the good, the cleansing of the evil that is contained in it, and brings about a dynamic evolution of the faith that is always able to renew everything. Without consideration of the criterion of contrast, we can not speak of inculturation. It is clear that evangelization is a necessary contrast to the grave immoral aspects of the cultures that it seeks to achieve, and obviously demands the renunciation of idolatry.”
The story of Pachamama is an accurate x-ray of the state of the Church at this dramatic moment in history, reminiscent of the truly prophetic words of Professor Joseph Ratzinger in his essay “The New Pagans and the Church,” first published in the magazine “Hochland” (October/1958). The following shocking words of Joseph Ratzinger can certainly be read as a kind of topical commentary on the acts of Pachamama worship that took place in the Vatican and were even justified by Pope Francis: “Paganism today sits in the church itself, and that is what characterizes the Church of our day, as well as the new Paganism, that it is a paganism in the Church and a Church in whose heart paganism lives.”
The following flaming words from the heart of Bishop José Luís Azcona, an Amazon missionary and a worthy successor to the apostles, remain glowing in history: “One of the most shameful aspects of this idolatrous gesture [in the Vatican] was the crushing of the conscience of the ‘little ones’ through this scandal”.
In view of the undeniable fact of the objective gravity of the acts of Pachamama worship in the Vatican, with its clear pseudo-religious entanglements and its sentimentalization for the propaganda of the globalist world religion of “Mother Earth”, can one still speak of harmlessness or take refuge to the alibi of the “Chinese rites”? That would mean defending the indefensible.
At the time of the great ecclesial doctrinal and pastoral confusion during the Arian crisis in the 4th century, St. Hilary of Poitiers, the Athanasius of the West, had the conviction that such a state must not be accepted with silence or belittling of the situation. These words, quoted in the following, are of the utmost timely and quite applicable to the Vatican's scandal of the Pachamama worship: “From now on, silence would no longer be called restraint but inertia” (Contra Const. 1).
To all those in the Church of our day, who have neither belittled nor silently accepted the acts of Pachamama worship in the Vatican, but raised their admonishing voice, should be given gratitude and appreciation, first and foremost to the laity, who were moved by their supernatural sense of faith and through these acts expressed their true love and respect for the Pope and their mother, the Holy Catholic Church.
November 18, 2019
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana
Editor's note: This was originally published on Kath.net here. This translation was authorized by Bishop Schneider.