Through the years: The Lipa Marian apparitions, controversies

May 30, 2023 - 8:36 PM
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Our Lady Mary Mediatrix of All Grace
The statue showing the Our Lady Mary Mediatrix of All Grace in the Carmelite monastery in Lipa City, Batangas where Teresita Castillo claimed the Virgin Mary appeared to her in 1948. (shenvivogelera via The Philippine Star)

Three years after the Japanese occupation ended, a religious phenomenon rocked the city of Lipa in the Batangas province.

It centered on the Carmelite Monastery where a then-21-year-old postulant claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared and talked to her several times.

The young nun was Teresita “Teresing” Castillo, who ran away from her home on her 21st birthday and entered the convent instead of pursuing piano lessons as her parents wished.

A few months after her entrance at the monastery, the apparitions and other alleged happenings — such as the showering of petals — began.

July 31, 1948 

Before the Marian apparitions, Teresita in her semi-autobiography claimed to have encountered “the Evil One.”

The first alleged encounter was when she prayed in her convent cell.

Teresita claimed the “evil” entity told her of her father’s welfare after she left her family’s house.

Her father, it claimed, was not able to focus on studying his cases, preferring to peer out the window to wait for her return.

The postulant said this made her “homesick.”

The entity reportedly bothered her the following day as well.

August 7, 1948 

Teresita claimed to have smelled a “very sweet fragrance like that of white lilies” on her way to her cell.

When she reached it, she “immediately heard a very sweet voice” which allegedly said: “My daughter, suffering will always be with you until the end of your life.”

August 18, 1948

Teresita claimed that the Virgin Mary first appeared to her on this date, when she was in their cell.

The apparition reportedly said to her: “Do not be afraid. My Son has sent me to bring you a message.”

August 20, 1948 

The postulant claimed that petals fell from nowhere in their cell while she was fixing the bed. The petals, she said, formed a figure of a cross when they fell on the ground.

The Virgin Mary would allegedly continue communicating with her in the following days.

September 12, 1948 

Teresita famously heard the “sweet, sweet voice” of the Virgin Mary while praying the rosary in what she said was a “future garden” in their convent.

The apparition reportedly told her to come to that spot “for fifteen consecutive days.”

September 15, 1948 

Teresita claimed that then-Auxiliary Bishop Alfredo Obviar of Lipa and other Carmelite nuns also witnessed a shower of petals.

Some of these allegedly turned into ashes when picked up by some nuns.

The postulant would reportedly continue to receive messages from the Virgin Mary each day until September 26, the fifteenth day of the supposed visit.

But Teresita claimed the apparition would continue communicating with her after September 26.

November 12, 1948 

The postulant alleged that this was the last day she had an apparition of the Virgin Mary, whom she claimed told her the following:

“What I ask here is the same as in Fatima.”

Among Mary’s titles is Our Lady of Fatima, which is based on the 1917 Marian apparitions of children in Fatima, Portugal.

Teresita claimed that the apparition told her she was “Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace.”

Investigations, questions, rejections

1949 

By May of the following year, the postulant was clothed in a ceremony which she said was the “second phase” of her life in the novitiate.

Teresita then recorded the investigation of the apparitions, which she claimed included her being forced to sign a document saying her Marian apparitions were made up.

She did not indicate the exact timeline of these investigations.

During the same period, Teresita’s health deteriorated and she had to be admitted to a hospital.

She eventually left the convent after being told she was unable to fulfill the requirement of staying in the Carmelite Monastery for one year, although some reports claimed this happened “sometime in 1950.”

October 17, 1949 

Teresita alleged that the Virgin Mary told her a “secret message” which involved China and the Philippines.

“Pray hard for China’s dream to invade the whole world, the Philippines is one of its favorites. Money is the evil force that will lead the people of the world to destruction,” she wrote in her semi-autobiography.

The Virgin Mary also reportedly told Teresita that “prayers, sacrifices, self-denials and the daily recitation of the Rosary” will soften the heart of her Son.

March 28, 1951 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (then known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office) declared that the events in Lipa have no signs of supernatural character or origin.

This, after a supposed thorough study of the available evidence, including the testimony of the convent’s prioress.

March 29, 1951 

Pope Pius XII reportedly confirmed the Congregation’s decision about the Lipa Marian apparitions.

April 11, 1951

A committee of six prelates from different dioceses in the country reportedly signed a negative verdict on the apparitions, declaring “that the evidences (sic) and testimonies exclude any supernatural intervention in the reported extraordinary happenings — including the shower of petals — at the Carmel of Lipa.”

The committee was headed by Apostolic Administrator Rufino Santos.

April 12, 1951

Santos decreed that the statue of Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace (Called Our Lady Mary Mediatrix of All Grace) be retired from public veneration.

Documents about the apparition, including the supposed diaries of Teresita and Mother Prioress Mary Cecilia of Jesus (Natividad Zialcita), were also ordered to be burned.

Revival

February 11, 1990 

The nephew of Bishop Cesar Guerrero, one of the signers of the 1951 verdict, swore in an affidavit that his uncle signed the document under duress and that the latter was a believer in the apparitions.

May 25, 1991 

Over 40 years after Teresita’s alleged last communication with the Virgin Mary, she claimed to have received new messages, although by “voice” only.

This communication allegedly continued until March 25, 1994.

July 16, 1991

During the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Bishop Mariano Gaviola announced that the image of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace would be exposed for public veneration.

1994 

It was reported that retired Borongan Bishop Godofredo Pedernal filed an affidavit, saying that prelates who signed the 1951 statement were “forced” to sign.

The prelates, he said, revealed this to Obviar while on their deathbeds.

2005 

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles reportedly launched a campaign to further spread devotion to the Mary Mediatrix of All Grace.

November 12, 2009

On the 61st anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s alleged last appearance to Teresita, Arguelles formed a commission to investigate the apparitions anew.

September 15, 2015 

Arguelles reportedly issued a decree authenticating the claims of Teresita, saying that “the events and apparition of 1947, also known as the Marian phenomenon of Lipa, and its aftermath, even in recent times, do exhibit supernatural character and is worthy of belief.”

December 11, 2015 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Curia held a meeting to address the matter following Arguelles’ decree about the apparition.

It said that it elucidated the reasoning behind the decision approved by Pope Pius XII in 1951 “and the confusion caused by errors of its communication.”

“This Congregation confirms the definitive nature of the 11 April 1951 decree by which the phenomenon of Lipa was declared to lack supernatural origin,” their decree said.

“The authority on which this declaration was made was not that of the Bishop members of the Special Commission, but rather that of the Supreme Pontiff,” it added.

The Congregation also said that one of the main reasons the Lipa apparition was declared of non-supernatural origin and character was the prioress’ confession in the “deception.”

It added that some nuns also “testified that they had seen deliveries of roses to the convent” and were ordered to burn rose stems without petals.

November 16, 2016 

Teresita dies at 89 years old.

Pandemic renews interest

April 2020 

A news report said that the COVID-19 pandemic “has revived interest among Filipino Catholics” about the “China prophecy” of the 1948 Lipa Marian apparitions.

“The warning has become relevant because the new coronavirus that has caused the worldwide pandemic is widely alleged to have come from Wuhan, China,” a report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer reads.

It also noted that the Asian giant has widely censored initial reports about the virus.

April 2022 

Retired justice Harriet Demetriou, a devotee of Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace, pressed for the reopening of the inquiry into the controversial Lipa apparitions.

According to her, the document showing Pope Pius XII’s signature confirming the negative 1951 declaration “has not been made public, notwithstanding repeated requests from devotees.”

Demetriou said that “as a laywoman who takes seriously her devotion to Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace,” she was raising a need to see “the devotion and the apparition… in a more objective way.”

Criminal mockery?

May 13, 2023 

Winston Fernandez Cabading, parish priest of the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism, is arrested after Demetriou accused him of “offending religious feelings,” a crime under the almost-century-old Revised Penal Code.

She also described him as Mary’s “rabid critic.”

Cabading’s charges stemmed from his statements made at the 4th National Conference on the Ministry of Spiritual Liberation and Exorcism in August 2019, where Demetriou said he “emphasized how demons can appear to be holy, thus surreptitiously citing Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace series of miraculous events.”

The retired judge also cited an online program in 2022, where the exorcist priest expounded on a Vatican decree that nullified as devoid of “any supernatural intervention” in the 1948 Lipa Marian apparitions.

Cabading also allegedly mocked the apparition, Demetriou claimed.

He was only able to post bail on May 15 since offices are closed on weekends. The exorcist priest was arrested around Saturday evening.

May 26, 2023 

The Philippine Association of Catholic Exorcists expressed support for Cabading, saying that they stand with his “obedience and union with the Pope and the Philippine Bishops of the Catholic Church with regards to this issue.”

The chief exorcist of the Manila archdiocese also said they issued the statement “with permission and blessing” of Cardinal Jose Advincula, the Manila archbishop.

READ: Catholic exorcists rally behind priest charged for ‘offending religious feelings’

May 27, 2023 

In a statement, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Pablo Virgilio David said that the Vatican has already ruled on the alleged Lipa apparitions.

He also said the CBCP was “perplexed” by the legal battle, especially because Catholics are in conflict with each other over matters of faith.

But David said the contention might also indicate their “shortcomings as Church leaders in facilitating dialogues.”

“We beg forgiveness for this shortcoming,” he said.

RELATED: Bishops take blame in Marian devotee’s court case vs priest

The Church leader also warned against those branding the phenomenons as “demonic” since this “requires the serious discernment and guidance of bishops,” who he said “have merely upheld the decision of Rome on the matter.”

June 1, 2023 

Cabading’s arraignment at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s Branch 81.