By Melissa Butz and Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
ROME — A wood carving statue of a naked pregnant woman that has been at the heart of brewing controversies since before the Vatican’s major summit on the Amazon region began was stolen from a Roman Church on October 21 and tossed in the Tiber River.
News of the incident, along with a video of it, was first reported by LifeSite News and Church Militant, traditionalist websites that have been frequently critical of the image.
Critics of the statute have repeatedly characterized it as a graven pagan image, while other defenders of it initially characterized it as an indigenous statue of the Virgin Mary. A Vatican spokesperson has since repeatedly said that the image is “simple representation of life.”
The nearly four-minute video first shows the statue present before the altar at the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina and moments later shows two men carrying it toward a bridge near Castel Sant’Angelo, the mausoleum of the Roman Emperor Hadrian that has been used by popes as both a castle and fortress.
Moments later, pieces of the statue are placed on the bridge and one by one, knocked into the muddy waters below.
The statue first appeared at a prayer ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on October 4 and has created a social media frenzy. On October 19, the image was again present at the Via Crucis procession on Saturday, which included the participation of several bishops from the Synod on the Amazon.
Following the incident, Paolo Ruffini, the head of Vatican communications, repeated that the image resents “life, fertility, mother earth.”
Ruffini said the incident “seems to me to contradict the gesture of dialogue” that the Synod should represent.
The Synod of Bishops focused on the pastoral needs of the Amazon region has now entered its final week and is set to conclude on October 27.