BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics were scandalized when the charitable arm of a diocese directed a prayer to a fertility goddess or Earth Mother.
On Aug. 1, the diocese of Venado Tuerto in Argentina published a prayer to Pachamama, the same Andean fertility goddess that was venerated during the Amazonian Synod called by Pope Francis in 2019. This came on the day when indigenous tribes celebrate "Mother Earth" with incantations and sacrificial offerings.
The prayer uses tropes from the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary, both of which are recited daily by millions of devout Catholics worldwide. Following an outcry from Catholics, the prayer was removed from the internet.
The prayer, published by the diocese's charitable arm, Caritas, reads:
God bless you, Pachamama, sweet source of our life, be forever adored. Blessed are the fruits of your womb, our daily bread, blessed are you today and forever. Look with compassion, Holy Mother, upon the human pack of dogs that destroys you through ambition. Blessed be your clemency, Pachamama. My land is prey to madness. You are the source of life and joy. Pachamama, holy land, Holy Mother, Virgin Mary.
In a statement that has also been since removed from the internet by the diocese, Caritas declared, "The Pachamama is a symbol of fertility, of the earth and the sacredness of life. It is a myth loaded with spiritual meaning (that) can be taken advantage of."
Attributing the words to Pope Francis, the statement added: "Some religious festivals contain a sacred meaning and are spaces for encounter and brotherhood. These are the new paths for the Church and for achieving an integral ecology."
The diocese's tribute came on Aug. 1 when activists and members of the local government held a religious ceremony in honor of Pachamama at Venado Tuerto. According to local newspaper El Litoral, worshippers were invited to cast liquor, seeds, fruit and other offerings into a cavity that was dug at an abandoned lot. After spreading incense over the offerings, participants declared the site a "sacred space."
Similar events occurred elsewhere in South America, especially in Quechua and Aymara communities. One such act of pagan devotion, in Leon, Nicaragua, was cited by Facebook user Vasquez Velasquez. The celebration is called Qulqi Uru.
Faced with criticism, the diocese on Aug. 3 released a lukewarm apology: "We want to apologize to those who felt offended by our publication about Pachamama. The intention was to communicate our communion with [Pope] Francisco," in reference to Paragraph 79 and 80 in his Querida Amazonia apostolic exhortation that followed the controversial 2019 Amazon Synod in Rome. In these paragraphs, Pope Francis instructed:
It is possible to take up an indigenous symbol in some way without necessarily considering it as idolatry. A myth charged with spiritual meaning can be used to advantage and not always considered a pagan error. Some religious festivals have a sacred meaning and are occasions for gathering and fraternity, albeit in need of a gradual process of purification or maturation. A missionary of souls will try to discover the legitimate needs and concerns that seek an outlet in at times imperfect, partial or mistaken religious expressions, and will attempt to respond to them with an inculturated spirituality.
Such a spirituality will certainly be centered on the one God and Lord, while at the same time in contact with the daily needs of people who strive for a dignified life; who want to enjoy life's blessings, to find peace and harmony, to resolve family problems, to care for their illnesses, and to see their children grow up happy. The greatest danger would be to prevent them from encountering Christ by presenting him as an enemy of joy or as someone indifferent to human questions and difficulties. Nowadays, it is essential to show that holiness takes nothing away from our "energy, vitality or joy."
Prayers to Pachamama in various languages predate publication by the Venado Tuerto diocese and come in various forms, including songs and chants.
Facebook user Adrian Gutierrez posted:
We are praying for these shepherds who have departed from the path, so that they may return. We condemn this idolatrous and diabolical prayer to Pachamama in Venado Tuerto. It is a shame that some shepherds have prostituted themselves, abandoning the true God, to follow the pagans' idols. Their bad example is dragging many souls by imitation down to Hell.
The statement was accompanied by a photograph of apparent paper copies of the Pachamama being burned publicly.
Venado Tuerto is a town in Santa Fe province, which lies in Argentina's lush pampas north of Buenos Aires. Since 2000, the diocese of the same name has been led by Bp. Gustavo Arturo Help, 74, who will soon reach the mandatory age of retirement. Waiting in the wings is Co-adjutor Bishop Han Lim-Moon, 66, who was born in South Korea and named by Pope Francis in 2014 as auxiliary bishop of San Martin, a suburb of Buenos Aires. In 2020, the pontiff named Lim-Moon to his current position. Lim-Moon is reportedly on very good terms with Francis. He has lived in Argentina since 1977.
During the 2019 Amazonia Synod, a wooden idol depicting a nude pregnant woman sparked controversy when it was present at several events. In the Vatican Gardens, a strange ceremony took place in which the idol was venerated with dancing and offerings of flowers and fruit. In one case, a priest was seen dancing with others in a circle around the effigy. Pope Francis also participated in a ceremony involving Pachamama, and later was present at a Mass where the effigy was placed at the altar.
At Santa Maria Transpontina outside the Vatican walls, several copies of the idol were present at an "Amazonian Way of the Cross." In the church, daily "moments of Amazonian spirituality" were held. When five of the idols were stolen from the church and thrown into the Tiber River, Francis apologized to those who felt offended by their removal.