ROME – The Vatican on Monday spoke of an “act of defiance” after some indigenous Amazonian statues were taken from a Rome church and dumped into the Tiber River following criticism from ultra-conservative Catholics.
Anonymous individuals filmed themselves taking the five statues of a naked, pregnant woman from a church near the Vatican and throwing them from a bridge.
The vandalism came during a meeting of bishops or synod at the Vatican focused on the Amazon region, during which some ultra-conservatives have criticized the display of what they call “pagan” indigenous objects during church ceremonies.
The internet video, which emerged on Monday, showed an unidentified man taking the statues.
Senior Vatican official Paolo Ruffini told journalists on Monday that the theft was “an act of defiance” that was “against the spirit of dialogue.”
“We have repeatedly said that these statues represent life, fertility, mother Earth,” Ruffini said.
Synod spokesman Father Giacomo Costa said that “stealing objects is never constructive,” after last week describing the sculptures as “neither pagan nor sacred” and in no way representing the Virgin Mary.
Pope Francis earlier this month hit out at “offensive words” spoken against the Amazon’s indigenous people, noting that a feather headdress is no more ridiculous than hats worn at the Vatican.
The three-week synod, or assembly, unites 184 bishops, including 113 from the nine countries of the pan-Amazon region, including Brazil.