Sunday, July 07, 2024

Christ as Apache: Icon back in church

Joy and relief among the indigenous faithful in the parish of St Joseph in Mescalero in the US state of New Mexico: the icon depicting Jesus Christ as an Apache is back in the church.  

As "OSV News" reported on Thursday morning, parishioners have returned the artwork to the church after having received it back. 

"It is with great joy that we announce that the paintings taken from St Joseph's Apache Mission have been returned to the tribe and will return to their place in the church," the Mescalero Apaches had previously written on their Facebook page.

According to media reports, the icon had been taken down by the parish priest at the end of June without prior notice or consultation with the parishioners. 

It had been hanging in a central position under the crucifix behind the altar. 

Indigenous parishioners spoke of being "shocked" when they realised the icon was missing. 

According to them, the priest described the icon as problematic and not Catholic. 

In a Lenten sermon that year, he had said that being a Christian and belonging to the Apaches did not go together. 

The priest initially did not want to comment on the incident, but announced an explanation for next week.

The icon has been hanging behind the altar in the parish church since 1989. 

It was made by a Franciscan friar and the caption refers to Christ as the "Giver of Life" in the tribal language. 

The church is located on an Apache reservation and is part of the Las Cruces diocese.