Spirit Daily


Bishop Cools To Stark Akita Revelation But Situation Remains Highly Mysterious

By  Michael H. Brown

It was one of the most mysterious events of the 1970s. In a faraway, hidden cloister, a humble nun, totally deaf, began to hear the Blessed Mother. The voice seemed to issue from a statue -- a statue that inexplicably shed tears on at least 101 occasions. This was the phenomena of Sister Anges Katsuko Sasagawa at Yuzawadai in Akita, Japan, and there was prophecy. There were visitations by angels, attacks by the devil. And now there is a puzzle: were the phenomena approved by the Church?

It was in 1973 that Sister Sasagawa, who belongs to the Institute of the Handmaids of the Eucharist, reported that angels led her to the chapel of her convent, where she saw smoke, flames, and brilliant rays envelope the altar. In the chapel was also the statue, fashioned after apparitions known as "Our Lady of All Peoples" in Amsterdam, Holland (apparitions that we'll investigate at a future time). Carved from wood, the Virgin stood on a globe with a cross behind her. On occasion a brilliant light would surround her, and blood flowed from one of the statue's hands inexplicably.

The local bishop, John Shojiro Ito of Niigata, clearly believed the events. He saw the flow of tears on four occasions -- even tasted them. 

"I was able myself to witness four lachrymations," Ito later recounted. "About 500 persons have also been eyewitnesses." 

The bishop, citing a study at a medical school which proved the liquid was human tears, concluded that "it is beyond human powers to produce water where there is none, and I believe that to do this the intervention of a nonhuman force is necessary."  

That statement was contained in an official pastoral letter Bishop Ito penned before leaving office. In it he explained that in 1975 he'd gone to Rome seeking counsel on how to handle the extraordinary occurrences and was told by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that as local bishop he had full authority to rule on the matter. In 1976 Bishop Ito asked the Tokyo archbishop to create a commission of inquiry, but the commission was not able to confirm the phenomena, and Ito -- as a witness himself -- asked the Congregation if he could form a second commission. 

That was in 1979, and that same year the Congregation sent the Japanese nunciature a letter that was unfavorable to the events. Bishop Ito -- asserting that the Vatican letter contained "misunderstandings" -- responded by sending the Vatican a thick dossier on Akita, and then in 1983 met with officials of the Congregation, at which time it was decided that the dossier should again be submitted to a prolonged examination, with a possible ruling, at some future date, by the Vatican itself.

In the meantime, however, Bishop Ito issued his pastoral letter (the one mentioning a "nonhuman force") and said that such a force had to be from one of three sources: the paranormal faculties of a human being (psychic phenomena); machinations of the devil; or a "supernatural intervention." 

Ito excluded the first two: There had been occasions when tears flowed while Sister Sasagawa was away from the chapel (arguing against it being her "psychic powers"), and there had been the good, not evil, fruits, including healings (Sister Sasagawa herself was cured of her deafness!). Thus, Bishop Ito declared that the correct choice was supernatural intervention and that "after the inquires conducted up to the present day, one cannot deny the supernatural character of a series of inexplicable events relative to the statue of the Virgin... nor does one find in it elements contrary to Catholic faith and good morals."

In short, it was a rare official approval. When I contacted him in the mid-1990s, Bishop Ito responded by sending a fax of the pastoral letter and saying that he was "leaving it to time to clarify the nature of the events." This seemed to be an allusion to the messages -- which Ito quoted in his pastoral letter and which contained dramatic prophecies [see below]. Among the startling predictions: that "the Heavenly Father is preparing to inflict a great chastisement on all mankind."

"It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky," said one message, asking prayers for priests and the Pope and prophesying that "the demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God." 

There would be an evil "infiltration," it said -- in such a way that "one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops." It mentioned that the devil would "press many priests" to leave God's service and warned that "if sins increase in number and gravity, there will no longer be pardon for them."

This of course is now very relevant and is also fascinating in light of the third secret of Fatima. That prophecy showed a suffering pope and the image of an angel set to torch the world. 

Fire will fall

Were Akita and Fatima warning of the same event? 

According to Sister Lucia dos Santos, the Fatima visionary, a nuclear war that nearly took place in 1985 was prevented by the consecration of the world by Pope John Paul II -- just 12 years after the Akita warning. 

Moreover, one of Sister Sasagawa's revelations in Akita came on October 13, 1973 -- anniversary of the famous Fatima miracle. 

When Bishop Ito retired, he was replaced by the Most Reverend Francis Assisi Keiichi Sato -- and he appears much cooler toward Akita. In a recent exchange of correspondence with Spirit Daily, an assistant to Bishop Sato responded to our questions about the authenticity of Akita by saying, "To be quite specific, the statue's tears have not been officially declared supernatural, the messages to Sister Sasagawa have not been declared authentic, there have been no more recent messages, the diocese does not plan further investigation, and the so-called 'revelations' are not 'Church approved.'" The note alluded to an earlier correspondence in which the new bishop emphasized that two commissions had not been able to find proof of the supernatural. But the new bishop  stopped well short of reversing the previous positive judgment, saying  he would neither forbid nor encourage veneration of the Akita statue. "I have not passed any subsequent judgment, and therefore the report of Bishop Ito is still valid," he said, adding in a statement on May 1, 2002, that  that the statue will be enshrined in a new chapel. "I wish to continue to preserve the atmosphere of prayer surrounding the Eucharistic Handmaids' statue of Our Lady of Akita," said the bishop. "I can not see any reason why it should be forbidden. On the contrary, I would like to stress that the devotion has been legitimately permitted by Church authorities."

Thus, as the matter stands -- and despite what seems like a much cooler attitude to the revelations, rumors of "persecution," as well as the perplexing correspondence, which seemed to declaim the events -- the supernaturality of Akita, clearly supported in Bishop Ito's letter, remains officially approved, serving, especially in recent weeks, as another timely warning.

[Message of July 6, 1973: "My daughter, my novice, you have obeyed Me well in abandoning all to follow Me. Is the infirmity of your ears painful? Your deafness will be healed, be sure. Be patient. It is the last trial. Does the wound of your hand cause you to suffer? Pray in reparation for the sins of men. Each person in this community is my irreplaceable daughter. Do you say well the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist? Then, let us pray it together: "Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist, I consecrate my body and soul to be entirely one with Your Heart being sacrificed at every instant on all the altars of the world and giving praise to the Father, pleading for the coming of His Kingdom. Please receive this humble offering of myself. Use me as You will for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls...

Message of  August 3, 1973: "My daughter, my novice, do you love the Lord? If you love the Lord listen to what I have to say to you. It is very important. You will convey it to your superior. Many men in this world afflict the Lord. I desire souls to console Him to soften the anger of the Heavenly Father. I wish, with my Son, for souls who will repair by their suffering and their poverty for the sinners and ingrates. In order that the world might know His anger, the Heavenly Father is preparing to inflict a great chastisement on all mankind. With my Son, I have intervened so many times to appease the wrath of the Father. I have prevented the coming of calamities by offering Him the sufferings of the Son on the Cross, His Precious Blood, and beloved souls who console Him and form a cohort of victim souls. Prayer, penance and courageous sacrifices can soften the Father's anger. I desire this also from your community, that it love poverty, that it sanctify itself and pray in reparation for the ingratitude and outrages of so many men. Recite the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist with awareness of its meaning: put it into practice: offer (whatever God may send) in reparation for sins. Let each one endeavor, according to capacity and position, to offer herself entirely to the Lord. Even in a secular institute prayer is necessary. Already souls who wish to pray are on the way to being gathered. Without attaching too much attention to the form, be faithful and fervent in prayer to console the Master."

Third message October 13: ". . . if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. 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. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres (other priests). 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. The demon will be especially implacable against the souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them. . . . Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved."

Latest bishop's statement:

I have been asked by Bishop Sato to reply to your letter of May 14 regarding the events surrounding the statue of Our Lady in Akita.  Very briefly, the answer to each of the questions you posed is "no."

 To clarify his position, the Bishop issued a statement nine years ago which is still valid.  Just recently he has set out further clarifications in a new statement.  I send them both in the attached file. 

Please excuse the delay in answering your enquiry.  The Bishop contacted me immediately after receiving your FAX, but the translation of his recent statement has taken me some time.  Allow me to add a personal comment.  Bishop Ito's phrase "it is not possible to make a denial, saying that there is no supernaturality" is just as convoluted in Japanese as it is in English.  Devotees tend to read it as saying that the supernatural nature of the events can not be denied, but the wording does not permit such an interpretation.

  CURRENT BISHOP'S STATEMENT (received by Spirit Daily May 28, 2002):                                


  VENERATION OF THE STATUE OF OUR LADY IN AKITA                            

     I believe that the mysterious events related to the statue of Our Lady at Yuzawadai, Soekawa, Akita are known to you.

     In 1984 the former ordinary of the Niigata Diocese, Bishop Ito, announced in a pastoral letter, "For the Diocese of Niigata, I do not forbid veneration to be shown to the statue of Our Lady in Akita."  From the time I succeeded him as ordinary of Niigata until now I have not made a single change in that announcement.

     Many opinions have been received about this, ranging from demands ("Why don't you forbid devotions like this?") to protests ("Why doesn't the Church recognize the events as supernatural?").  What follows is also a response to those views.

 1. To those who ask for a new investigation of the mysterious events:

     For the following reason I will not carry out a new investigation.

     A special investigation commission, convened by Archbishop Shirayanagi of the Tokyo Archdiocese at the request of Bishop Ito, came to the conclusion in 1980 that, "The supernatural nature of the events can not be proven."  In response to this, Bishop Ito convened a new investigation commission, which carried out a second study.  At the end of that study Bishop Ito announced in 1984 his permission for "veneration of Our Lady's statue in Akita".

     However, that permission was not granted because the newly convened commission had been able to prove the supernatural character of the events.  In his pastoral letter Bishop Ito writes, "Based on the investigations made up to this point, it is not possible to make a denial, saying that there is no supernaturality in the mysterious phenomena related to the Eucharistic Handmaidsí statue of Our Lady  in Yuzawadai, Soekawa, Akita City."  In other words, the second commission also was not able to prove the supernatural nature of the events.  However, it is also not possible to deny and say that there is no supernaturality.  On that account he gave his permission.

     Both the first and the second commission could not prove supernaturality, and therefore, unless new circumstances arise, I have no intention of conducting a new investigation.

 2. To those who ask why the devotion is not forbidden:

     I can not see any reason why it should be forbidden.  On the contrary, I would like to stress that the devotion has been legitimately permitted by Church authorities.

     It is the practice of the Church to watch over without hindrance acts of veneration like this which begin naturally on the part of the laity, provided there are no doctrinal errors, mistaken mysticism or abuses.  Bishop Ito stated as one of the reasons for his permission that "nothing has been found contrary to faith and morals," the traditional approach of the Church.  I did not change my predecessor's permission in any way for the same reason: because nothing could be found contrary to faith and morals.

     It is not unusual for talk of the mysterious to be associated with pilgrimage sites.  If a prohibition were called for due to such talk, almost all places of pilgrimage would have to be closed.  What is important is not so much whether or not one believes in the mysterious events, but that it be a place where people visit and pray, receive graces and consolation, experience conversion and make good resolutions, offer thanksgiving and praise.

 3. Regarding the future of veneration to Our Lady's statue of Akita:

     The permission granted by Bishop Ito is still valid.  In the future also, Our Lady's statue will be enshrined in a new chapel, and anyone will be free to visit and pray before it.  I wish to continue to preserve the atmosphere of prayer surrounding the Eucharistic Handmaids' statue of Our Lady in Akita.

     Although we speak of "veneration to Our Lady's statue in Akita", it is veneration to Mary, mother of our Savior Jesus Christ, and to no one else.  If veneration of the Akita statue of Our Lady serves to deepen prayer to Mary, love for her son Jesus, and trust in God our Father, there could be no greater honor for the Diocese of Niigata.

     At the close of his pastoral letter Bishop Ito adds a warning: "Even if the Holy See should give a positive judgment about the events of Akita, they would be private revelations, and not something that brings an obligation to believe."  This is an important point.  To believe or not to believe depends on the individual person.  Disbelief is not a matter that can be criticized.

May 1, 2002

Francis Keiichi Sato, O.F.M.

Bishop of Niigata


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