Pope Francis has apologised after indigenous Amazonian statues were stolen from a church in Rome and dumped into the Tiber River.
“As a bishop of the diocese, I ask forgiveness from the persons who were offended by this,” he said.
The five wooden statues of a naked, pregnant woman were taken from the church on Monday.
Unidentified perpetrators – believed to be conservative Catholic militants – described the statues as “idols”.
They later posted a video of showing how the so-called Pachamama statues were stolen and then thrown in the river.
Pachamama is a goddess revered by indigenous communities in the Amazon.
What did the Pope say?
The Pope’s apology came on Friday, the penultimate day of a three-week assembly at the Vatican.
The gathering, known as the synod, is discussing the future of the Church in the Amazon – a vast region in South America.
The pontiff said the statues had been recovered by Italian police and appeared to be not damaged.
Francis also stressed that there “was no idolatrous intention” in bringing the statues to the church in Rome.
The Vatican earlier condemned the theft, with senior officials saying the statues simply represented life, fertility and mother earth.
The Pope has faced strong criticism from ultra-conservatives over whether married men will be allowed to become priests.
This is one of the most hotly discussed issues at the synod.
The Amazon Synod explained:
- A synod is a gathering of priests and bishops to discuss issues affecting the Church
- The Amazon Synod is a special synod to discuss issues affecting people living in the Amazon region
- Most participants are bishops and priests from the Amazon region
- After discussion, the synod will vote on their conclusions and then present a final document to the Pope
- The conclusions of the synod are advisory. It is the Pope who makes any final decision