New inquiry sought into 1948 Lipa ‘apparitions’
(First of two parts)
With Pope Francis’ recent consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as supposedly demanded in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s apparitions in Fatima in 1917, a Marian devotee in the Philippines is pressing for a reopening of the inquiry into the controversial apparitions in Lipa, Batangas, in 1948.
Harriet Demetriou, a retired justice of the Sandiganbayan and a former chair of the Commission on Elections, said the negative findings of the 1951 investigation were marring devotion to Mary.
“It seems that the alleged papal approval of the negative judgment on the Lipa apparitions is destined to become one of the best-kept secrets of the Church,” said Demetriou, a devotee of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace.
One of the messages in the supposed apparitions at the Carmelite convent in Lipa was China’s invasion of the Philippines, according to the late Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, who was archbishop of Lipa before becoming archbishop of Cebu. As Lipa prelate, Vidal interviewed the visionary, ex-Carmelite sister Teresita “Teresing” Castillo, who had told him of the supposed warning of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In a 2014 letter to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Vidal said one of the “secrets” of the Lipa apparitions was the invasion of the Philippines and the world.
“Pray hard, for China’s dream is to invade the whole world,” Vidal said, quoting from the notes made by Castillo on the alleged Marian apparitions in 1948, a year before the communist triumph in China. “The Philippines is one of its (China’s) favorites. Money is the evil force that will lead the people of the world to destruction,” the prelate continued.
A similar warning about Russia was expressed in the Fatima apparitions. Russia’s ‘errors’
“I … ask for the consecration to my Immaculate Heart and the communion of reparation on first Saturdays,” the Blessed Virgin Mary was quoted by Lucia dos Santos, one of the three visionaries, as saying.
“If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, Russia will spread her errors around the world…”
The warning was made months before the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917, in which the Romanovs were massacred, a socialist government was established, and the totalitarian communist Soviet Union came into being.
During the Fatima apparitions, it was predicted that the “Great War” would end. But World War II was also predicted, as well as the persecution of the Church and the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.In the Lipa apparitions, the Blessed Virgin Mary reportedly identified herself to Castillo thus: “I am Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace.”
Rain of rose petals
A special Church commission formed to examine the supposed apparitions in Lipa declared in 1951 that the evidence and testimonies it had gathered “exclude any supernatural intervention in the reported extraordinary happenings.”
Apart from the alleged apparitions, the “extraordinary happenings” included the famed rain of rose petals and the supposed imprint of the images of Jesus and His mother on them.
Then Lipa Bishop Alfredo Versoza was removed and an apostolic administrator was named in his place: Manila Auxiliary Bishop Rufino Santos, who would soon become the first cardinal from the Philippines.
Led by Santos and then Manila Archbishop Gabriel Reyes, the commission ruled that the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Carmelite convent, supposedly under the title “Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace,” be “retired from public veneration.”
The commission likewise stopped pilgrimages to the convent “until a final decision will come from the Holy See.”
Marian devotees in Lipa have since questioned whether then Pope Pius XII ever confirmed the commission’s findings, arguing that the Vatican had not shown any document to prove the papal approval.
Relatives or associates of the bishops who participated in the Church inquiry have made sworn testimonies quoting the prelates as saying that they signed the negative judgment because they were forced to by Santos and the then apostolic nuncio, Archbishop (later Cardinal) Egidio Vagnozzi.
In 1991, Jesuit Fr. Lorenzo Ma. Guerrero filed a sworn statement saying that his uncle, San Fernando Bishop Cesar Ma. Guerrero, who was a member of the inquiry, had told him of signing the 1951 statement “under duress.”
In 1994, retired Borongan Bishop Godofredo Pedernal also filed an affidavit saying that while on a visit to the Carmelite convent in Lipa in 1948, he personally witnessed the shower of rose petals. Pedernal added that as a close confidante of Lipa Auxiliary (later full) Bishop Alfredo Obviar, he personally witnessed Obviar visiting Guerrero and the other members of the commission—Jaro Archbishop Jose Maria Cuenco and Nueva Segovia Archbishop Juan Sison—on their death beds and asking them why they signed “the declaration about the foolishness of the Lipa Carmel Sisters.”
The prelates, according to Pedernal, showed Versoza the petals they had kept as souvenirs of the apparitions and told him: “We were forced to sign.”
The process of the beatification of Versoza and Obviar have been initiated in the Holy See. Versoza has been named “Servant of God” and Obviar, “Venerable.”
(To be concluded)
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