In an operation involving the Roman Carabinieri, a life-size image of Pope Francis has been dredged from the Tiber, where it was thrown by thieves who stole it from the sanctuary of the church of San Giorgio in Velabro.
The statue, part of a tableau honouring St John Henry Newman in his titular church, was found to be tarred and feathered and covered with nails. A spokesperson from the Rome Museum of Ethnology has identified the image as one used as a cult object in voodoo rites. ‘The statue was probably employed in an attempt to cause harm or pain to the Holy Father,’ she said.
The search is now on for the culprits.
Cardinal Baldisseri, head of the Synod of Bishops, has named cardinals Burke and Mueller as prime suspects. ‘The action,’ said the Cardinal, ‘shows the operation of perverted and corrupt minds. This crime was clearly intended to bring the Amazon Synod and the indigenous peoples of Amazonia into disrepute. Only rigid theologians could have done this. We must always be on our guard, as Pope Francis is constantly telling us, against the malign forces of clericalism.’
The statue itself, alongside another of St Francis of Assisi, has been erected in the Vatican gardens as an object of devotion.