Pachamama Museum, Amaicha del Valle, Argentina
Pachamama Museum, Amaicha del Valle, Argentina Bernard Gagnon / Wikimedia Commons

The Conservative Catholic clergy is up in arms against Pope Francis over the alleged worship of pagan statuettes during the Amazon summit in Vatican last week. The Catholic pontiff has been accused of idolatory and the worship of the pagan goddess Pachamama. Around 100 priests have written to the pontiff asking him to repent publicly and unambiguously.

The controversial incident happed during the Amazon Synod in Rome last week where bishops from the Amazon region gathered. The Pope used the Synod to push his theme of greater inclusivity within the Church. The gravest charge levelled against Pope Francis is that he worshipped the Pachamama on the Vatican gardens and allowed the statues to be placed in a church.

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The Pope should "repent publicly and unambiguously ... of all the public offences that he has committed against God and the true religion," the signatories of the letter, who are mostly from the United States, UK, Germany, France, Australia and Netherlands, said.

Who is Pachamama?

According to Inca mythology, Pachamama is the fertility goddess. People of the Amazon region worship Pachamama as Mother Nature. The worship of Pachamama gave way to the veneration of the Virgin Mary after the Spanish conquest of South America and the subsequent conversion of the indigenous Andean people to Roman Catholicism.

What did Pope Francis do?

The Pope used the Amazon Synod to spread the message of inclusivity. The Pope used symbols of the indigenous people to further this message during the Synod, and Pachamama statues were a powerful means to do that. Several statues of Pachamama were used in various ceremonies in the Vatican during the synod. One such event was what was called a 'pagan ceremony' where Pachamama statues were blessed in Vatican Gardens.

What are the charges against Pope?

 Pachamama (aymara Mother Earth), Sculptures Park, Providencia Ave., Santiago Chile
Pachamama (aymara Mother Earth), Sculptures Park, Providencia Ave., Santiago Chile Penarc / Wikimedia Commons

The critics accuse the Pope of allowing the "idolatrous worship" of Pachamama, who they say symbolises the pagan religious belief in South America. The conservatives brand Pachamama as "a false goddess of mother earth" and calls the veneration of Pachamama as 'pagan worship' They also accuse the Catholic Pontiff of accepting a bowl used in the idolatrous worship of Pachamama and placing it on the altar during the closing Mass for the synod.

The priests say the Pope's act was a direct violation of the First Commandment. "The rendering of worship to anyone or anything other than the one true God, the Blessed Trinity, is a violation of the First Commandment. Absolutely all participation in any form of the veneration of idols is condemned by this Commandment and is an objectively grave sin, independently of the subjective culpability, that only God can judge," the critics said in the letter.

Pope Francis meets Iran president Hassan Rohani
ran President Hassan Rouhani (L) exchanges gifts with Pope Francis at the Vatican January 26, 2016 Reuters

How did the Pope react?

The Pachamama statues that were placed in the church of Santa Maria in Traspontina were forcibly removed by the conservative priests and thrown into the Tiber river. However, the Pope condemned this act and apologised to the Amazonian bishops. The Pope also allowed another statue of the Pachamama placed inside the church. The critics say that the act was sacrilege and the Pope's apology amounted to a new profanity.