A German bishop has criticised ultraconservatives for quoting him in a protest letter calling on Pope Francis to repent over supposed “sacrilege”.

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Bishop of Regensburg Rudolf Voderholzer acknowledged in a statement Wednesday the “Protest against Pope Francis’s sacrilegious acts”.

That “Protest” accuses Pope Francis of promoting “idolatrous worship of the pagan goddess Pachamama” at various events at last month’s Amazon Synod in the Vatican.

The “Protest” organisers cite Voderholzer as one of their supports for accusing Francis of sacrilege and superstition, on the basis of the bishop’s words in a sermon October 31 in which he criticised “veneration of natural fertility in the form of the personified Mother Earth”.

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But Voderholzer today “strongly reject[ed]” his being quoted in the Pachamama protest “and the allegations against Pope Francis linked to it”.

The bishop said that he was in the homily quoted by the protesters simply referring “to current debates in the Church” prompted by the Amazon Synod, such as how the Church might relate with “respect” and “truthfulness” to pre- or non-Christian cultures and traditions.

Voderholzer quoted from his October sermon to stress that while conversion necessarily entails a break with a non-Christian past, it is also true that Christ “purifies” and “exalts” the “often inexpressible yearning of all people and their ‘natural’ religiosity”.

“That is why inculturation always happens in connection and breakage at the same time”, explained the bishop.

Why it matters

Voderholzer had said in his October sermon that “it was not apparent” that the ‘Pachamama’ figures at the Amazon Synod “had undergone the transformation and purification” necessary for authentic inculturation.

But in his statement today, he appeared to walk back that sentiment somewhat, and to insist his initial doubt was an innocent question.

In his October sermon, Volderhozer today insisted he was participating “in the struggle for the right way of the Church”.

“The overall goal is the unity of Christians in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, in whose person God revealed himself to man”, the bishop recalled.

“Internet reproaches, accusations and condemnations of the Holy Father are wide of the mark and are not the way that leads to this goal” of unity with Church and God, Voderholzer reminded the Pachamama protesters, adding that that’s why such criticisms “are not my way”.

For the record

Voderholzer’s criticisms of the Pope protesters are significant in that he was one of the main opponents in the German episcopate to the statutes of the “synodal path” adopted by the Bishops in September, even going so far as to warn the reform process could lead to a “path of destruction”.

As such, Voderholzer can hardly be considered as a “liberal” bishop.

His criticisms of the Pope protesters may suggest that the ultraconservative resistance to Francis has taken it a step too far.

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