Talk to us

CathNews, the most frequently visited Catholic website in Australia, is your daily news service featuring Catholics and Catholicism from home and around the world, Mass on Demand and on line, prayer, meditation, reflections, opinion, and reviews. And, what's more - it's free!

A detail of Apache Christ by Franciscan Friar Robert Lentz (OSV News)

An Indigenous image of Jesus Christ by an acclaimed iconographer has been removed from a New Mexico church for unspecified reasons, days after the United States bishops approved a pastoral framework for Indigenous ministry. Source: OSV News.

Painted by Franciscan Friar Robert Lentz, Apache Christ is a 2.4-metre icon depicting Jesus as a Mescalero holy man, with the inscription in Apache “giver of life”.

This image and a painting of Apache dancers by the late Apache artist Gervase Peso were taken down from the interior walls of St. Joseph Apache Mission in Mescalero, New Mexico, sometime during the evening of June 26 and the early morning hours of June 27.

Since 1989, it had hung behind the altar of the church under a crucifix. The parish is located on the lands of the Mescalero Apache Tribe.

The discovery was made by parish staff and volunteers as they opened the church for use in catechetical activities on the morning of June 27. 

A St Joseph Parish staffer who did not wish to be identified said the Peso painting had been mounted in the church’s reconciliation room.

In addition, the staffer said the icon’s detailed frame had been disassembled and left in a locked storage area of the church to which only the priest, Fr Peter Chudy Sixtus Simeon-Aguinam, had access.

Fr Simeon-Aguinam, who is also pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Bent, New Mexico, said he would comment next week. 

Br Lentz, the friar who painted the icon, said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that he “GAVE the icon to the Mescalero people, who then commissioned an elaborated hand-carved frame for it”.

The incident follows in the wake of the US Catholic bishops’ overwhelming vote on June 14 to approve a new pastoral framework for an Indigenous Catholic ministry.


‘Apache Christ’ icon removed from New Mexico mission (By Gina Christian, OSV News)