Pope Francis' controversial meeting on the Amazon has taken a criminal twist after thieves stole indigenous fertility statues from a Vatican-area church and tossed them into the Tiber River.
Video of the pre-dawn theft from the Santa Maria in Traspontina church was shared and celebrated on conservative social media Monday. The Vatican's communications czar, Paolo Ruffini, termed it a "stunt" that violated the idea of dialogue.
Even before the three-week Amazon synod opened, conservative and traditionalist Catholics blasted its agenda as a heretical celebration of paganism, given its deference to indigenous cultures and spirituality.
Their criticism reached a fever pitch when Francis presided over a prayer service in the Vatican gardens featuring the statues of pregnant women, which the Vatican says symbolize life and fertility.
The synod ends Sunday.
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