MANILA, Philippines?The triple disasters?earthquake-tsunami-nuclear emergency?visited on Japan earlier this month call attention to Akita prefecture in the country?s north, the hardest hit region that is still struggling to control the spread of radiation from its crippled nuclear reactors.
Akita, the site of the apparitions in 1973 in which the Blessed Virgin warned about a worldwide disaster that could afflict humanity, is situated in the Diocese of Niigata near Sendai, the city in the northeast that was the epicenter of the 9-magnitude quake and where the death toll is estimated to have reached thousands.
Initial reports indicate that Akita, located on the western coast facing the Sea of Japan 145 kilometers from Sendai, received significantly less damage than other parts of northern Japan, despite its proximity to the epicenter. However, residents did report power outages, burst pipes and fires.
The prefecture capital of Akita is a place of veneration and pilgrimage for Japanese Catholics because of the apparitions.
In 1973, the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa, a cloistered nun of the Handmaids of the Eucharist, a religious congregation founded by the late Bishop John Shojiro Ito of the Diocese of Niigata.
The extraordinary events began one day in June 1973, when Sister Agnes saw brilliant mysterious rays emanate suddenly from the statue of Mary in the chapel where she was praying. The same thing happened on each of the two days that followed.
Mary predicted a number of future cataclysmic events, including natural disasters, if humanity does not change, during three appearances to Sister Agnes.
?If men do not repent and better themselves, God the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity, it will be a punishment greater than the (biblical) flood, such as never seen before,? Mary told Sister Agnes.
Fire from sky
?Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead,? she said.
The messages warned of chaos within the Church, ?one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops.?
?Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises, and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord,? Mary said.
The only way for humanity is to recite the prayers of the rosary each day, Mary said.
?With the rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests,? she said.
Two years after the last message, the statue in the chapel where the apparitions had occurred began to emit tears and drops of blood. The occurrence continued for more than six years.
Bishop Ito had commissioned the statue, using as a model a picture of the oil painting of Our Lady of All Nations who appeared in Amsterdam in 1945, also warning of a time of tribulation and purification. Mary is depicted as standing on the globe in front of a wooden cross, her arms outstretched and hands open, in a warm gesture of welcome.
After her last message to Sister Agnes, given on Oct. 13, 1973, the wooden statue, now known as Our Lady of Akita, began to emit tears and drops of blood from a cross-shaped wound in the palm of her right hand. At the same time, Sister Agnes? left hand started to bleed. The statue wept a total of 101 times.
In 1988, I was posted at the Vatican and writing my second book on Our Lady?s messages to mankind, when I learned about the apparitions in Akita from John Haffert, the founder of the Worldwide Apostolate of Fatima.
I got in touch with Bishop Ito for more information and he told me that he had undertaken a 10-year investigation into the Akita events, including independent laboratory tests on the tears and blood from the Akita image, which proved they were of human origin.
The bishop said he had brought a pastoral letter that he had written to the Holy See, seeking approval from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI). The letter declared the events of Akita to be of supernatural origin and authorized the veneration of Our Lady of Akita throughout the entire diocese.
He told me he expected Cardinal Ratzinger to give his pastoral letter to his staff of experts for study. Instead the Cardinal told the bishop to wait while he read the letter. After which, he gave him approval to disseminate the pastoral letter, thus giving his judgment on the Akita events and messages as reliable and worthy of belief.
I had occasion to inquire from the president of the Catholic Conference of Bishops of Japan when he later visited Manila what the conference?s position was on the Akita events. He said Bishop Ito had undertaken a thorough investigation of the events and they found no necessity for altering his conclusions that these events were indeed supernatural in origin.
Similarity of Akita and Fatima
From the swiftness of Cardinal Ratzinger?s positive response, Bishop Ito told me he surmised that the Cardinal who was at the time the custodian of the Third Secret of Fatima, must have recognized the similarity of the Akita messages with that of Fatima, of which authenticity there was no doubt, and therefore approved his pastoral letter for immediate dissemination to the faithful.
To better appreciate this connection between these messages, between that of Fatima in 1917 and Amsterdam in 1945 and Akita in 1973, note their dates: Amsterdam occurred 28 years after Fatima and Akita 28 years after Amsterdam. And 28 years after Akita would be 2001, the first year of the third millennium. The late Pope John Paul II wrote in his book, ?Crossing the Threshold of Hope,? that it seemed to him, that as we approach the third millennium, the prophecy of Our Lady of Fatima given to the shepherd children would be fulfilled.
The second correlation is the connection provided by heaven: Sister Agnes was taught by her guardian angel the Fatima prayers which were dictated to the children of Fatima, also by the angel of Portugal. The appearances of Our Lady of Akita and those at Fatima occurred on the 13th of the month. Her last appearance to Sister Agnes was on Oct. 13, 1973 on the anniversary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima. This led Bishop Ito to conclude that the Akita message was a continuation of the Fatima message.
The third correlation is the apocalyptic content of all the three messages: At Fatima, with its third secret now fully disclosed, we see an angel with a flaming sword about to scorch the earth when stopped by Our Lady in her splendor which caused the angel to shout three times: penance, penance, penance while pointing to the world.
Sister Lucia, when asked by the late Pope John Paul II, to elucidate on this vision, said that it is not God who is punishing us in this manner, but mankind, by its transgressions, bringing upon itself this scorching of the earth. Lucia said further that if it has not yet happened, mankind, by its sins of immorality, injustice, especially against the poor, is slowly but with great strides approaching this eventuality.
While Our Lady had warned about great disasters befalling mankind, there was no mention of a massive earthquake that would hit Japan, unlike in Rwanda where Our Lady appeared in Kibeho to warn its people of rivers of blood that would flow in their midst, which actually happened 10 years later when civil strife broke out, resulting in the slaughter that wiped out a great part of the population.
Fire falling from the sky
Our Lady of Akita had warned that ?fire will fall from the sky.? John Haffert of the Blue Army has produced a video document with the help of Dr J. Rand McNally, a nuclear scientist, to show how this could literally happen.
McNally theorized: ?Should a nuclear tornado triggered by a strong nuclear explosion possess strong enough E x B drive, it might permit the ignition of the atmosphere in a powerful, annihilating nuclear fusion fire which could burn up whole nations, if not the earth.?
When the third secret of Fatima was disclosed in 2000, it was accompanied by a commentary from Cardinal Ratzinger. Commenting on the vision of the angel with a flaming sword about to scorch the earth, Ratzinger wrote that the possibility of the earth would be engulfed in fire is no longer in the realm of fantasy, as man, by his inventions of weapons of mass destruction, has made this possible.
Nuclear fusion fire
McNally, using scientific methods, demonstrated how this could actually happen, that fire will literally fall from the sky as the atmosphere is ignited with nuclear fusion fire, feeding on the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, in a nuclear hurricane that could envelop nations in fire, even span continents.
The present danger from Japan?s crippled Fukushima nuclear power station, if the radiation leaks continue unabated, may pose a similar risk as the highly contaminated waters flow into the ocean and are carried across continents. What was alarming was the report last Sunday that the radiation reached 10 million times the normal level. This was later corrected to 100,000 times, which is still cause for alarm.
The latest reports confirm that the Fukushima contaminated waters have reached Florida and Massachusetts. As of this writing, the valiant battle to contain radiation leakage in the plant has been abandoned. The effort has been switched to decommissioning the six reactors which will take 30 years at an estimated cost of one trillion yen ($12 billion).
A rosary a day
As Our Lady of Akita told Sister Agnes, we need to pray. A Marian group is requesting all Filipino Catholics to pray a rosary a day for Japan that this nuclear danger may be averted and the country be on its way to full recovery.
Our Lady of Akita, pray for the Japanese people!
(The author served as ambassador to the Vatican from 1986 to 1990 and chaired the government negotiating panel for peace talks with communist insurgents from 1993 to 1996. He is president of the Family Rosary Crusade and heads the Assisi Development Foundation.)