Alexander Tschugguel, a 26-year-old Austrian Catholic convert from Lutheranism who has worked for the pro-life movement in his country, revealed himself Nov. 4 to be the person behind throwing the Pachamama idols into the Tiber River during the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazon Region.
Tschugguel, who had been in Rome at the beginning of the Amazon Synod, was disturbed by seeing indigenous people bowing down to the statuettes in the Vatican Gardens. He flew to Rome to carry out what he saw as a correction of a grievous breach of the First Commandment that had upset many faithful Catholics.
According to CNA, the statues, which were identical carved images of a naked pregnant Amazonian woman, had been displayed in the Carmelite church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, close to the Vatican, and used in several events, rituals, and expression of spirituality taking place during the Oct. 6-27 synod.
Pope Francis issued an apology Oct. 25 asking forgiveness from those who were offended by the “Pachamama” statues being thrown into the Tiber River, and said that they had been displayed in the church “without idolatrous intentions.”
In his latest YouTube video, Tschugguel appeals for people to subscribe to his channel, and includes a link to the “Boniface Institute,” a simple website with links to make donations via Paypal and Patreon. “We put up this institute to bring together all the people who want to support us” Tschugguel told the Register Nov. 5. “Many around the world asked how to give donations. I did not want these donations to go in my pocket, so I founded this institute to use the funds to spread Catholic culture.”
In this Nov. 4 interview with the Register, Tschugguel explains in more detail why he took what representations of what Pope Francis called “pachamama” out of a Rome church and threw them in the Tiber, why he has decided to come forward now, and whether he is concerned about repercussions. He also pays tribute to faithful U.S. Catholics whom he calls a “backbone for us European Catholics” for a modern Church that he sees as “not leading the way anymore, but following the world.”
Tell us about yourself. What’s your background?
I’m an Austrian, born in Vienna, I’m 26 years old, I converted 10 and a half years ago from Lutheranism to Catholicism, which is rare in Austria as most Austrians are Catholics. I converted back to the Catholic Church as my great grandfather was a Catholic convert from Protestantism. I try to work in the pro-family and pro-life movement, I try to do major projects there and am always trying to get in touch with all people in the Church. I got married this summer, and very happy with that. I have a fantastic life right now.
It’s our duty to show the Pope what is happening, because the synod is there to give advice to the Pope, but if the synod fathers only give advice to the Pope which doesn’t represent what the Catholic people believe the teaching of the Catholic Church says, then I think it’s our duty as laymen to stand up and tell the Pope: “We believe in what the Church has always taught us, why do we need to change that?” I got into that kind of fight when I fought for the pro-life, pro-family movement in a German-speaking area which was a very difficult task.
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