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October 21, 2017

De devil in church?

Recently, this image, taken at the funeral of John Cupid, caused controversy over social media because of what many perceived as the inappropriateness of having this traditional Carnival figure, even in a suit, inside the church. Catholic News sought out comments from Felix ‘Pierrot Grenade’ Edinborough, who was part of the procession of costumed characters around Cupid’s coffin before it entered the Cathedral; and Vicar for Communications, Fr Robert Christo. Feel free to send in your own views. –SD

Fr Robert Christo: On first impression, one must confess it appears a bit jarring, out-of-place, but on closer reflection, it can be very thought-provoking and stimulating to one’s religious imagination.

Some have poked fun: “ devil in church “; “corruption cloaked in jacket”; “ could not be in a better place”; and “maybe this is the place”. There are some realities we must face. The Church must be opened to all and never be seen as museum/merit for saints but a hospice for oppressors and other corrupt elements which plague our society.

One must also consider the context of the event. Mr Cupid was a masman extraordinaire and his contemporaries sought to honour him at his last rites with a procession of ole-time carnival portrayals. Some remained in the Church afterwards. Coincidentally, the devil portrayal was alone in this pew.

Internationally, the devil is depicted in works of literature, music and popular art forms and culture even in Christian images. In carnival, devil characters are connected with the mimicking and mockery of the horrific evil, brutality and oppression associated with slavery of our ancestors and the celebration of freedom that followed.

Even in international carnival portrayals, it is never meant to glamorise evil but in fact the reverse – even to reflect humour within ourselves.

It should encourage a dialogue on faith and our present reality. It should inspire conversion not fear but allow a deeper respect for our past, and an encounter with real freedom which comes only through the One and true Living God.

Felix Edinborough: You have to understand the tradition. In the African traditions, several dances were performed to ward off evil. The devil and jab molasses (black devil) did special movements to ward off evil spirits. They did not, in of themselves, represent evil. Even the colour blue is used to ward off evil. There was nothing disrespectful in this devil in the church.