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The bishop of Los Teques in Venezuela has declared the apparition site of Betania to be an official sanctuary.

The move was announced at the site Sunday although written last May 26 by Bishop Freddy J. Fuenmayor.


"1. Knowing that the place known as Finca Betania located in the parish territory of Our Lady of the Rosary of Cua in the Tuy Valley from the year 1976 with the approval of the authority of the Church has been a place of veneration of the Virgin Mary under the title of 'Mary, Renconciler of All People and Nations,' named by the general population, 'Our Lady of Betania'

"2. Taking into account that to that place from all over the country and from all over the world a great number of pilgrims have been coming to ask for favors to Our Lady and for spiritual consolation

"3. Having proved through innumerable testimonies the abundant spiritual fruits given to the faithful who have come to pray at the foot of Our Lady with faith and devotion

"In the exercise of my faculties, as the Bishop of the Diocese of Los Teques, a tenor of the canon 1230 of the Canonical Code, through the present letter I declare the sacred place where the image of Our Lady has been venerated under the title of Mary Reconciler of All People and Nations, a Marian diocesan sanctuary of 'Mary Reconciler of All People and Nations.'"

The proclamation is an added measure of approval. The apparitions are already fully acknowledged by the 1987 declaration by Bishop Ricardo.

Betania -- largely associated with now-deceased mystic Maria Esperanza de Bianchini -- was approved as an authentic apparition by one of Bishop Fuenmayor's predecessors, Bishop Pio Bello Ricrado, in 1987. Apparitions began there in 1976 and included messages about the world and future events. Centers based on Betania have now been established in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California. An image of Mary as Our Lady of Betania and a second of Esperanza herself  are now in stained glass at Saint Mary's of the Pines in Manahawkin, New Jersey (near Long Beach Island).

Betania is one of a handful of few Marian apparitions granted full Church approval during the past one hundred years. Another recent one occurred at Kibeho in Rwanda -- which is also a sanctuary.

Meanwhile, Carlos Marrero Bornn, Esperanza's son-in-law and translator, says that phenomena have been reported in association with the mystic, particularly in the way of mysterious rose petals at her grave in a cemetery called Cemeterio del Este.

"She has been manifesting in a beautiful way -- signs of her presence," he asserts.  "For example one day when went to her grave to pray the Rosary and it was my wife's birthday and she was saying quietly,  'I would be so happy if you gave me a sign today for my birthday,'  and back in the car, when we returned, on my wife's side, was a beautiful rose and we did not bring roses -- a perfect cut that seemed supernatural. That rose lasted for a month."

The "odor of sanctity" is also reported, says Carlos, adding that 250 of Maria's messages are in the bishop's hands.

"In those 250 messages are so many beautiful predictions and messages," he says. "For example the situation of our country, the changes that are coming, the ending -- always Our Lady comes and prays and says that the outcome will be for the better." The messages have not been officially released.

Bornn points out that Esperanza long predicted a purification and rebirth of the world would begin in 2004.  "My mother-in-law practically died in the middle of 2004," he notes. "From that moment on, the family has felt that rebirth."

[resources: The Bridge to Heaven and Betania video]

[see also: The incredible story of Maria Esperanza]

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