Lipa prelate doubts Vatican ruling on Marian apparitions


THE ARCHBISHOP of Lipa remains a firm believer in the 1948 Marian apparitions of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace, even as he bows to the Vatican’s declaration that the supposed encounters did not have supernatural origin.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said that while he respects the authority of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), he will not stop the devotion that has spread worldwide.

“I was being asked to proclaim to everybody to stop the devotion, I will never do that. It is against my conviction. Nobody can force anyone to do anything against his or her own convictions,” Arguelles told the Varsitarian.

In a decree issued Dec. 11 2015, the full text of which was released only last June, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog said the supposed Marian apparitions at the Carmelite monastery of Lipa, Batangas in 1948 were a hoax.

For the first time, the CDF revealed that in 1951, Pope Pius XII himself confirmed definitively the lack of supernatural origin of the Lipa apparitions, following a Vatican probe.

It ordered that “any and all commissions studying the question of the alleged supernatural phenomenon of the alleged apparitions in the Carmel of Lipa be immediately disbanded.”

The decree was signed by Cardinal Gerhard Müller and his secretary, Archbishop Luis Ladaria.



Arguelles, who received the ruling in May, said he only publicized the conclusion of the CDF ruling last May 31 because the first two pages were “unfair.” Other dioceses later released the full text.

First, the decree attributed a moral defect to the Carmelite prioress who is dead and no longer able to defend herself, he said.

Second, it appeared that the commission of six Filipino bishops that declared the Lipa apparitions non-supernatural in 1951 was used to make the prior rejection of the Vatican more acceptable to Filipinos, he added.

Third, Arguelles said the CDF was unfair to him. The prelate said he sought access to the Vatican archives in 2009 but was denied. Thus, he did not know of Pope Pius XII’s supposed decision when he approved and declared the apparitions “worthy of belief” in September 2015.

Arguelles said the only directives from the Vatican prior to the latest CDF decree was to stop investigations on the apparitions.

The CDF itself admitted to the communications snafu in its Dec. 11, 2015 decree, saying the papal nuncio at the time preferred to course the 1951 decision through the special commission of six bishops, whose pronouncements made it appear that the Vatican had yet to make a final ruling.


‘No real documents’

Arguelles also said he doubted whether Pope Pius XII really made a definitive ruling on the Lipa apparitions.

“It is really strange that they (Vatican) have claimed that the Holy Father (Pius XII) had made a declaration but we do not have any real documents from the Holy Father. The six bishops [in the commission] were used by the Holy See in order for their decision to be more easily acceptable to the Filipino people,” Arguelles said.

“They did not give any proof or written definition [from the Pope.] Normally, when the Holy Father makes a definitive stand on matters, he publishes it in an apostolic exhortation. We have to find out if this is really a [legitimate] decree,” he added.



Documents showed that the supposed apparitions started on Sept. 12, 1948 in Lipa’s Carmelite monastery. A postulant, Sr. Teresa Castillo, also known as “Teresita,” was praying in the garden when the vines began to shake. She heard the voice of the Blessed Mother, telling her to return to the same spot where the vines shook, for the next 15 days.

When Castillo returned, the Blessed Mother appeared to her on a cloud, wearing an immaculate white robe with a golden rosary on her hand. Castillo was instructed to encourage the people to pray the rosary.

The Blessed Mother’s last appearance was supposedly on Nov. 12, 1948, when she showered rose petals from heaven, containing images of Jesus, Mary and the saints.

She revealed herself as the “Mary Mediatrix of All Grace” and revealed four “secrets” about Castillo, China, the world and the Blessed Mother herself.

The CDF, formerly the Holy Office of the Inquisition, explained at length why the 1948 apparitions in Lipa lacked supernatural origin, unearthing the findings of an investigation it conducted from 1949 to 1951.

The five-page decree pointed to the written admission by Mother Mary Cecilia of Jesus, prioress of the Carmelite monastery, to “deception” during the supposed apparitions to Castillo.

The prioress supposedly disowned claims that she also heard voices from the Blessed Mother, saying that she instead got “written notes.” She also supposedly admitted to having “manipulated the rose petals” showered at the monastery, to make it appear there were sacred images embedded in them.

The Carmelite sisters were ordered to burn rose stems without petals and to “tell the same story to experts sent by the Vatican,” the decree bared.

The CDF noted that there were “special feelings” and “preferential attitude” between the prioress and Castillo, and questioned why a number of supposed messages from the Blessed Mother concerned relations between the two.

It also said Castillo was under the influence of pain medication.



But for Arguelles, the “apparitions in Lipa have something supernatural.”

“How can the sisters invent those petals and place nice engravings in those petals of the faces of the Blessed Mother?” he asked.

On accusations that the Carmelite sisters used blowers to shower the rose petals, Arguelles said: “You know in Lipa, in 1948, they hardly had any electricity.”

“And to throw petals one kilometer away from the Carmel when propellers didn’t exist in that place at that time in Lipa … and if ever there was, before you can get the petals, they have already been destroyed.”

Arguelles hinted that prejudice could have played a role in how the Vatican dealt with the Lipa apparitions in 1951.

“It is because we are not Italians. We are not Europeans. But they are deciding in Rome here anything about in the Philippines,” he said.


Not the end

Society of the Divine Word priest Fr. Bel San Luis, a Manila Bulletin columnist, believes there is still hope for Lipa devotees.

“To my mind, it means that there was no sufficient and convincing evidence to support the claim of the reported miracles. But if God and the Blessed Mother willed the miracles to happen, then they will happen,” San Luis said.

He cited the apparitions at the grotto in Lourdes, France, where Church leaders at first did not believe the story of Bernadette Soubirous who was thought to be mentally deranged.

Several miracles have been attributted to Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace, such as healings of the sick and conversions through “faithful intercessions.”

Maria Rosa, a member of the Missionary Catechists of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, said the CDF’s decision won’t lessen her devotion to the Blessed Mother.

“Para sa akin, she is truly a mother, kasi andiyan siya palagi. Kung kailangan ko ng guidance, ng prayers para sa aking misyon, sa aking pagtuturo at sa lahat ng aking gawain, andiyan siya,” Rosa said in a phone interview.


CBCP not expected to appeal

 Arguelles said he did not expect the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to appeal the Vatican decision.

And he does not mind being called a fanatic for insisting on a strong Marian devotion.

“I am fanatic and I will not be ashamed of that. I think we need a Blessed Mother now. There are forces … trying to diminish the role of the Blessed Mother in our today’s troubled world.”



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