By Melissa Butz
Before the Amazon Synod even began, one wooden figure had been the cause of questions and even controversy.
Amongst feather headdresses, candles and dancing, a particular figure of a woman stood out as the centerpiece during a tree planting ceremony inside the Vatican on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4
A wooden statue of a pregnant young woman was presented to Pope Francis by 20 indigenous populations from the Amazon Region who are in Rome for the Synod.
It was seen again on October 7, the first day of the Synod, inside St. Peters Basilica. Now, the feminine figure can be found on display at an exhibition in a church located near the Vatican, Santa Maria in Traspontina.
The exhibition’s organizer — Father Roberto Carrasco Rojas — a missionary priest for indigenous peoples in Peru, assured that the image is very symbolic to indigenous Catholics in the Amazon.
“They carved in wood an image of a Blessed Mother, who is pregnant. She is the Virgin, and we have called her Our Lady of the Amazon,” he explained. “She represents the Amazon, because what is the Amazon? The Amazon is a woman, she is female, she has a female face. Why? Because the earth is a mother, the earth gives life. So that is the Amazon.”
He said the figure’s symbolism represents the fact that the Amazon unites countries, peoples and cultures. It cares for the people, and provides everything from modes of transportation to the food they eat.
According to Fr. Carrasco Rojas through exhibitions like this indigenous peoples hope to teach others the importance of the Amazon as a source of drinking water and a natural filter for harmful carbon dioxide output.
Its benefits aren’t only for the people in those regions, but rather for the world at large.
During the month of October, there are 247 similar exhibitions in Rome, with 60 organizations putting them on. Their mission is to share their traditions with those who don’t know them.