Mary foretold COVID-19 pandemic, alleged visionary claims

Is seeing believing? How the church faces claims of Marian apparitions


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church has always been very cautious when it comes to judging reported Marian apparitions.


More than 1,500 visions of Mary have been reported around the world, but in the past century fewer than a dozen cases have received church approval as being worthy of belief.


Determining the veracity of an apparition is an enormous job that falls to the local bishop.


The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith established a set of norms in 1978 to help bishops and guide them in the process of discernment and investigation of reported apparitions and revelations.


The process is never brief. For example, a series of Marian apparitions in the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, received approval in 2010 — 151 years after the first apparition was reported in 1859. But that’s just half of the nearly 300 years it took the church to approve the apparitions of Our Lady of Laus in France.


The process is lengthy because visionaries and witnesses must be questioned and the fruits of the apparitions, such as conversions, miracles and healings, must be examined.


According to the norms, the local bishop should set up a commission of experts, including theologians, canon lawyers, psychologists and doctors, to help him determine the facts, the mental, moral and spiritual integrity and seriousness of the visionary, and whether the message and testimony are free from theological and doctrinal error.


The longer the alleged apparitions last and the more popular an apparition site becomes, the more evidence accumulates — and the longer it takes the church to reach a judgment.


When the bishop’s investigation is complete, he can come to one of three conclusions: he can determine the apparition to be true and worthy of belief; he can say it is not true, which leaves open the possibility for an appeal; or he can say that at the moment he doesn’t know and needs more help.


In the last scenario, the investigation is taken to the national bishops’ conference. If the body of bishops cannot reach a conclusion, the matter is turned over to the pope, who delegates the doctrinal congregation to step in and either give advice, send a commissioner and-or set up a commission to investigate.


At every step of the investigation, however, the bishop remains in charge of the process.


An example of a situation in which the country’s bishops requested the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation to intervene is the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina.


The congregation established an international commission in 2010 to investigate the claims of six young people who said Mary appeared to them daily beginning in 1981. The apparitions apparently are continuing, and hundreds of thousands of people travel to the small town each year.


The church’s approach has been to distinguish between an apparition, which may remain unproven, and the spiritual consequences among the faithful, which may be quite evident.


That means that in places where an apparition is still awaiting church approval, people can go to the site to pray and receive spiritual gifts, as long as they do not presume the apparition is authentic.


The church approaches each claim with the utmost prudence, with rigorous investigation and with the invitation to live out the Gospel rather than follow the apparitions.


In fact, the church never requires the faithful to believe in the Marian apparitions, not even those recognized by the church, because it teaches that public revelation ended with the New Testament, and that no private revelation will add anything essential to the faith.


The apparitions and messages are never the same, but, in general, Mary appeals for people’s conversion and seeks to assure men and women that they are not alone in the world and can depend on God’s loving mercy.


Her appearance is never meant to result in her glorification, but of God’s.

TREVIGNANO ROMANO, Italy (CNS) — An Italian woman who claims to regularly experience supernatural visions said Mary told her in September 2019 that a new disease would soon emerge from China.

“Pray for China, because new diseases will come from there, all ready to infect the air by unknown bacteria,” wrote Gisella Cardia in a message she alleges came from Mary.

On the third of every month, hundreds of Italians flock to Trevignano Romano, a small town 30 miles from Rome, to pray the rosary with Cardia. The gathering takes place in an open field atop a cliff overlooking Lake Bracciano. A blue cross and large, encased statue of Mary are the focal points of an array of lawn chairs and benches to accommodate pilgrims.

During the rosary Aug. 3, shortly after 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Cardia knelt and looked skyward. She briefly wrote in a notebook and, at the conclusion of the rosary, shared with the crowd the message she claims to have received in ecstasy.

Some pilgrims took photos and videos of the sun, which they said was moving and pulsating.

Cardia says she receives messages not only on the third of the month, but regularly throughout each day. Hundreds of the supposed messages, which Cardia claims she had been receiving directly from Mary or Jesus since April 2016, are published on the website of the Association of Our Lady of Trevignano Romano.

Gisella Cardia, an alleged visionary, greets pilgrims after the recitation of the rosary in Trevignano Romano, Italy, Aug. 3, 2020. Pilgrims gathered for an alleged apparition of Mary to Cardia, who says Mary appears on the third of every month. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

The 121-word message that Cardia says refers to the coronavirus was dated Sept. 28, 2019. Catholic News Service was unable to verify that the message was actually posted on that date.

Mary spoke in September about an “unknown bacteria,” or, as Cardia now says, a “‘virus that would arrive from China’ — after a few months it arrived. It’s never long before what (Mary) says comes to pass.”

Many of Cardia’s messages underline the imminence of the End Times and predict earthquakes, pestilences and wars. She says that the messages are intended to heighten awareness of the reality of evil and sin and to call for the conversion of sinners, primarily through the recitation of the rosary.

Capuchin Father Flavio Ubodi, author of “I Will Dry Your Tears,” a compendium of the messages to Cardia, identifies same-sex marriage and abortion among the present-day evils for which humanity must repent.

“The messages are always asking for conversion and prayer; they are not different from those of Fatima or Lourdes or other places,” Cardia told CNS.

Judging the credibility of an apparition is the task of the local bishop, according to norms published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Since Trevignano Romano is located within the Diocese of Civita Castellana, the job of determining the credibility of the apparitions to Cardia falls to Bishop Romano Rossi.

“The Holy Roman Inquisition hasn’t been set in motion yet,” Bishop Rossi, laughing, told CNS July 31.

“I’m not going to make myself the Torquemada of the situation,” he said, referring to Tomas de Torquemada, the Spanish Inquisition’s first chief inquisitor. “We need time. If it comes from men, it will end; if it comes from God, it will grow. We’ll see.”

“Obviously, I’m in touch with my superiors in Rome about these things,” he added.

Gaining the church’s approval can take a long time; visionaries and witnesses must be questioned, and the fruits of the apparitions — such as conversions, miracles and healings — must be examined. The church may even wait more than 100 years before judging an apparition as being “worthy of belief.”

According to the norms, the local bishop should set up a commission of experts, including theologians, canonists, psychologists and doctors, to help him determine the facts, the mental, moral and spiritual wholesomeness and seriousness of the visionary, and whether the message and testimony are free from theological and doctrinal error.

Pilgrims gather in Trevignano Romano, Italy, Aug. 3, 2020, for an alleged apparition of Mary to Gisella Cardia, who claims Mary appears to her on the third of every month. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

“Conformity to dogma is not simply about not saying heresy,” Bishop Rossi said. “The heart of doctrinal conformity is the proclamation of grace, the proclamation of mercy, the new creation.”

“I am studying the spirit of the messages,” Bishop Rossi said, adding that he is looking for “the proclamation of grace and not of judgment.”

The bishop also said that while he was pleased to let the pilgrims use a church for their recitation of the rosary, he would be happier if more of the pilgrims came to Sunday Mass. “It would be a completion — not just saying, ‘We are a group that requests a meeting place,’ but ‘We are children of God who want to sit at the table with our other brothers and sisters.'”

Cardia says her life has been transformed since the apparitions began in 2016. She no longer works but stays at home 24 hours a day, in part because her claims have been rejected by the local townspeople.

“The locals are against me,” Cardia told CNS. “I feel sorry for them.”

Mornings are for housework, but in the afternoon, Cardia receives guests who come for spiritual guidance and hope for a personal message from Mary delivered through the alleged visionary.

The Association of Our Lady of Trevignano Romano is run by Cardia’s husband, Gianni, who has believed in the veracity of his wife’s visions from the beginning.

The association accepts donations for the maintenance of the field it owns and where the apparitions allegedly occur. During the coronavirus lockdown, a large gate and fence were added to supplement a video surveillance system, which Cardia said is necessary to prevent vandalism. The field is open regularly, however, for anyone who would like to visit and pray.

On Aug. 3, Cardia and her husband unveiled an artist’s rendering of a large sanctuary structure she said Mary would like to be built on the field, along with a promise that a source of miraculous healing water would be revealed later, for which a well would be needed.

The projects, however, are on hold because of local building restrictions.

Michele Fiore said he has been coming to Trevignano Romano from southern Rome for years both for the deep experience of prayer and because the apocalyptic themes of the messages help him make sense of current events in the world.

“If (Mary) were not with us,” Fiore said, “I would feel really not only abandoned but really scared because of what is happening now.”

A woman who identified herself as a hermit named Sister Patrizia said she learned of the apparitions to Cardia while suffering an illness in her Tuscan hermitage.

“I discovered that truly in these latter times the Mother of God comes to us personally,” she said Aug. 3 in Trevignano Romano. “The Mother of God and the Lord speak and prepare us for extraordinary events.”

Cardia said Mary has revealed to her that the COVID-19 pandemic will flare up strongly in the fall, that the current low rates of infection in Italy are a “momentary illusion” and that “everything will come back worse than before; it’s just a pause.”

Asked about that prediction, Bishop Rossi said: “One would have a 50% chance of guessing correctly.”



Author: Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ news and information service.

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