The archbishop who last year approved apparitions of Mary in the Filipino area known as Lipa to a Carmelite nun in the 1940s -- an approval that has now been "nullified" by a Vatican Congregation -- told Spirit Daily Monday (6/7/16) that he maintains belief in the apparitions, has a personal devotion to it, has had no direct communication with the Cardinal, Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who nixed it, and may appeal directly to the Pope, whom he does not believe is aware of Cardinal Muller's action.
The archbishop, Ramon C. Arguelles of Lipa [left], had declared the apparitions "worthy of belief" on September 12, 2015, and stated that the events were indeed supernatural, strongly encouraging devotion to "Our Lady, Mediatrix of Grace," as she called herself there. As we reported at the time, "Unless overturned by Rome, the apparition is thus 'Church-approved.'"
That reversal occurred on December 11, 2015 -- though Archbishop Arguelles was not made aware of it until two weeks ago.
The archbishop says a bishop in the Philippines Conference of Bishops informed him on May 28 that the Congregation had nullified his approval and that he had received the official document on May 31 from the nation's papal nunciature in Manila. (We strictly abide by such determinations.)
Asked if he had yet responded to the surprising nullification, the archbishop said, "No, because I was sent nothing directly," but added he may attempt to take the issue up with the Holy Father "if I can reach him." The Vatican document (see below) argued that a contentious negative ruling made in 1951 against the apparitions held sway because it was "confirmed" by the Holy Father, at the time was Pius XII.
For more than half a century now, the matter has been the focus of terrific dispute, with four of the six bishops involved with the original negative document in 1951 later recanting (and despite what they signed, expressing belief in the apparitions) and Cardinal Santos of Manila authorizing promulgation of the devotion. Arguelles says two Filipino bishops outright ignored the commission's negative ruling, allowing faithful to continue visiting the shrine.
The alleged repression in the 1950s was also orchestrated by the papal nuncio in Manila, at whose direction the committee of Filipino bishops had been convened, hastily concluding that the Lipa events were not of a supernatural nature, their own verdict signed without interviewing the visionary, who was sequestered at a different convent and forbidden, as were the other nuns, to speak of the happenings, which began in 1948. While the committee of bishops appeared unanimous in their conclusion that Lipa was fraudulent, there were the several who confessed before they died that they too had been coerced, signing the negative "findings" only under threat of excommunication.
The dissension included claims that diaries kept by the seer-nun, Sister Teresita Castillo, and boxes of other material were ordered burned by those who opposed the apparition and that allegedly miraculous rose petals were discarded. A statue representing the Virgin of Lipa (though ordered to be destroyed) was hidden instead. A bishop who had previously approved of Lipa (after a personal encounter with the rose petals) was unceremoniously stripped of his administrative powers (ostensibly for "poor accounting practices"), and his equally favorable auxiliary bishop removed and banished to a different diocese.
It was further alleged but never proved that Church interrogators tried to intimidate the alleged visionary into signing a false confession, a statement saying the apparitions were a fabrication intended to bring her personal attention, and when the befuddled young postulant found the strength to refuse, she was confronted by an angry psychologist/priest who made motions as if ready to throw an ashtray at her.
Meanwhile the prioress of the Carmel convent there, Mother Mary Cecilia of Jesus, who supported the apparitions [left], was transferred to another convent and given the role of a scullery maid. "I told them that four bishops quoted [in the 1951 committee] had made notarized declarations that they believed in manifestation of Lipa," argues Archbishop Arguelles. "I had asked for documents on the investigation but several of the six were not bishops before 1950. Four died believing and even the Cardinal, in 1963 -- twelve years after ban -- had signed a document that allowed printing and spread [of the devotion], so that means he also believed. That's why I am now asking how it can really said that the declaration of 1951 could be the official stand of the Holy See. The four bishops encouraged support."
Still, the current Vatican ruling holds sway and must be obeyed. The Congregation is the Vatican body with authority over mystical claims. Its determinations can be reversed only by the Holy Father, who has been silent on the issue.
There have long been questions about Lipa. While the original rose petals that were said to have materialized in the air there and fallen to the ground, with holy images on them, appeared inexplicable, some have raised skepticism of many others who in the apparition's wake claimed the same phenomenon. Moreover. Sister Teresita's experiences began not with the Virgin but with an attack by what apparently was an evil force that banged on her door and carried the smell of sulfur.
Those who support such happenings argue that the devil often attacks when he knows the Blessed Mother is about to appear, in an attempt to dilute it or divert attention. On the other side are those who fret that a deceiving spirit counterfeits Mary.
Archbishop Arguelles, who has visited Lipa since childhood, and says he has himself seen miracles occur there and is skeptical that Pius XII was involved in the original Lipa ruling. "I don't think that in 1951, Pope Pius XII was even thinking of what was happening in such a small country as the Philippines with so many things were happening in the world," he argues, adding that the Pope was favorable toward such mysticism. "He approved an apparition in 1954 in Italy and also Our Lady of All Nations was also approved by Pius XII, as was a weeping statue and in Syracuse [Sicily]," he told Spirit Daily in a lengthy interview.
He also argues that there was an approval of Lipa in 1992, when the late Archbishop Mariano Gaviola lifted the ban enforced forty years earlier by the then Lipa Apostolic Administrator Bishop Rufino Santos. "I was just repeating and following the decree of 1992," Arguelles maintains.
In 2010, however -- to make matters still more convoluted -- the Vatican "affirmed" that the apparitions were "not supernatural": that unusual forces had been "excluded. This was under Benedict XVI.
The Lipa archbishop has conceded that the latest ruling by Cardinal Muller [left], who also has indicated opposition to Medjugorje, holds sway and as a matter of "obedience" released what he was given by the nuncio on May 31. "I did not respond and I have no intention," he says. "The document was not addressed to me but was meant for me and implied I was disobedient and I am not disobedient. I think there is a lot of antagonism to whatever is Marian and I am very hurt by that. I don't know if the Holy Father Pope Francis knows about this. I think this is completely contrary to what he believes."
When asked if he would halt people from visiting the shrine, Archbishop Arguelles said, "No, no not at all. You don't stop people from believing and loving the Blessed Mother. No, no, no. They can tell me to keep silence, but they cannot force me to say it's not true, as one bishop of Lipa once said."
"I don't think Pope Francis knows what's going on," says Arguelles. "I don't think he knows about the letter." Arguelles said he may attempt at contact the Holy Father, "but I don't know if I can reach him, especially if some people around him know I am approaching him. I don't know if I'm capable of getting to him." He said he did give Pope Francis a Rosary from the site's devotion, known as Our Lady Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, when the Holy Father visited the Philippines last year. "This is a place of our continual prayer for you," he told the Supreme Pontiff just before the Pope left Manila to return home.
"Things are still happening there, at Lipa, things that be can't be explained and the Blessed Mother has plans for us," he claims.
Asked why he thinks it took so long for Muller's document to reach him, the archbishop replied, "Your guess is as good as mine. It's strange. There are so many strange things in the whole thing, so I believe even more that Lipa phenomena are true. There are too many testimonies. This is also my experience. I sometimes pray hard for the Church in Europe." He laments "all these beautiful things that [he believes] Heaven is doing" in the area of Lipa.
Arguelles, a bishop since 1994, says he prayed at Lipa as a seminarian and young priest "spent solitude" there, and then "even as bishop -- I pray in Carmel. It's part of my life. And I am thinking I became archbishop of this place for a reason."
We naturally will abide strictly to the Vatican's recent declaration on the apparitions.
[resources: The Final Hour]