Portuguese Newspaper Reports:
Vatican Calls for Resignation of Bishop of Fatima
and Shrine Rector Guerra
But Controversy Remains
by John Vennari
The last days of September saw a controversy erupt at Portugal’s Fatima Shrine. It was the direct result of protests of concerned Catholics against the new interreligious orientation now at Fatima.
Correio da manhã, the second largest newspaper in Portugal, caused a sensation when it splashed on its September 29 front page, “Vatican is shocked with Fatima”.
According to the newspaper, the Vatican “censured the prayer of the Dalai Lama and that of the Hindu priest in the Shrine,” and instructed the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (PEC) to replace the Bishop and Shrine Rector. If not, the Vatican would assume direct control of the Fatima Shrine.
At a press conference the same day, Fatima authorities denied the report, but Correio da manhã stuck to its story in its September 30 edition the next morning, quoting Aura Miguel, a specialist on the Roman Curia.
The original September 29 text published on the Correio da manhã’s internet site read:
“Rome has already made known to the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (PEC) that it must change the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, D. Serafim Ferreira e Silva (with the excuse that he is at the end of his career), and replace the Rector of the Sanctuary, Monsignor Luciano Guerra. Otherwise, the Vatican will take over direct management of Fatima.”
The word we received from a European contact is that certain members of the Vatican Curia believe that the Shrine officials went too far when they allowed the Hindu ceremony to take place at the altar in Fatima on May 5, 2004.
Hindu Visit: “Strange”
Fatima officials were quick to respond to the published report of the alleged Vatican crackdown, and held a press conference the same day that Correio da manhã’s story hit the newsstands. The September 29 afternoon edition of the Portuguese newspaper Lusa reported, “The Rector of the Fatima Shrine, Luciano Guerra, today declared his availability to continue as leader of the institution until the conclusion of the construction of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in 2007. Denying knowledge of any type of pressures, the Rector admitted that the opening up to dialogue on the part of the shrine caused some discomfort in conservative Catholic sectors.”
Guerra did not claim that those in the Vatican unanimously support the new interreligious program now manifest at Fatima. Rather, Guerra said, “The Vatican is a body which consists of many people”, and considered “it is possible that some may have found strange the information of the visit of the Hindu retinue to the Fatima Shrine.”
It is not surprising that there are some in the Vatican who found the Hindu ceremony at Fatima “strange”. It is well known that there are members of the Vatican who express grave reservations about the new interreligious orientation within the Church.
After the 2002 pan-religious meeting at Assisi, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, said that a mid-level official of the Roman Curia complained to him that Pope John Paul II had promoted “pagan worship” at Assisi.
Likewise, the modernist Father Richard McBrien of Notre Dame University, in his July 4, 2003 column, reported that not everyone at the Vatican is happy with the new interfaith initiative. McBrien said that Pope John Paul held the 1986 pan-religious meeting at Assisi, “much to the chagrin and private grumbling of Vatican officials to the Pope’s right”.
The Hindu Chant
At the September 29, 2004 press conference, Rector Guerra attempted to gently distance himself from the May 5 Hindu prayer ceremony conducted at the Fatima Shrine — an event held with his permission. Guerra said he would not again permit a visit of the Hindu group cast in the same manner as what came to pass. “The organization of that visit was a little beyond my control,” he said, claiming that the Hindu chanting was not authorized.
This defensive language on the part of Guerra is in contrast to his June 29 Communiqué in which he publicly attempted to justify the May 5 Hindu prayer service at the Catholic altar in the Capelinha at Fatima. In the June Communiqué, he claimed “no ritual was performed on or off the altar”. Now Guerra admits that a Hindu chant was offered at the altar, but tries to deflect personal responsibility saying that the chant was not authorized.
This is too little, too late, since Guerra himself admitted in his June 29 Communiqué that the plans for the Hindu community to visit Fatima were arranged and agreed upon well before the Hindu pilgrimage took place.
Speaking of this Hindu visit, Guerra also said at the September 29 Press Conference, “on that particular day, I did not even accompany them”.
Yet he does not mention, as was broadcast on the May 5 SIC national television report, that he told the people of Portugal the falsehood that all religions come from a “common basis of religions … born from the common humanity we all possess,” indicating that he welcomed the Hindus at the Shrine. He said this immediately after the Hindu “priest” chanted a prayer for peace to Hinduism’s pagan gods at the Catholic altar at the Capelinha, which took place in front of a congregation of about 60 Hindus who traveled to the Shrine from Lisbon.
Rector Guerra and the Bishop of Leiria also allowed the Hindu priest to drape them with shawls containing verses of the Bhagavad Gita, a “holy book” of Hinduism whose basic message is that all of life is an illusion.
Guerra has been rector of the Shrine for 31 years, and says he is available to remain at this post until 2007, when the new modernistic basilica is complete. It would be “too weighty a job” for his successor to hand over the Shrine in the middle of this “complex process”. He also says he believes it unlikely that the Holy See will assume direct control of the Shrine.
The Portuguese Jornal de Noticias likewise reported on September 30 that the Bishop of Fatima expresses his “full confidence” in the Rector of the Shrine, and that he is therefore not thinking of dismissing him.
A spokesman of the PEC told Jornal de Noticias that the news report from Correio da manhã “lacks objectivity”, claiming that “there are good relations between the Holy See, the Episcopal Conference and the bishop of the diocese”. Bishop Tomaz Nunes says he was “astonished” at the news, alleging that “it claims to create an alarmism that does not exist”. He underlined that the initiatives of the opening up of the Shrine to other religions, Christian or otherwise, had “the support of the PEC”.
Both Lusa and Jornal de Noticias quoted Guerra as saying, “What is behind all this is a strongly anti-ecumenical mentality which was already manifesting itself in Fatima before.”
Correio da manhã Responds
Nonetheless, the September 30 Portuguese newspaper Correio da manhã stuck to its initial story with the headline, “Sanctuary of Fatima. It has been confirmed that there is a controversy.”
“It has been confirmed” said Correio da manhã journalist Hernâni Carvalho, “that there is some uneasiness at the Roman Curia because of ecumenism in Fatima. The only Vaticanist journalist in Portugal, Aura Miguel, told Correio da manhã that ‘there is no smoke without fire’. A journalist with radio Renascença [the Catholic radio station], Aura Miguel recalled yesterday during a program on the Catholic station the concerns that the prayer by the Hindu priest in the Capelinha das Apariçtes caused in some Catholic quarters, and also the ambiguous explanations by Monsignor Luciano Guerra, Rector of the Sanctuary. The journalist revealed that she is aware of a degree of concern in some sectors of the Roman Curia, and explained that ‘Hindus are not supposed to perform celebrations in the Capelinha das Apariçtes, just as one is not supposed to celebrate Mass in a Buddhist temple’.”
Aura Miguel, who recently wrote her second book about John Paul II, is recognized as the best informed Portuguese woman on Roman Curia affairs. She said that Hindus praying at a Catholic altar even goes beyond what is permitted within the context of the new interreligious “Spirit of Assisi”. She did not mention the fact that the “Spirit of Assisi” itself is a post-Conciliar novelty that would have horrified all pre-Vatican II popes, as it places the conglomeration of false religions on the same level as the one true Church of Jesus Christ. This is why some of the more conservative members of the Roman Curia rightly take exception to this new interreligious initiative. It is the “spirit of Assisi” that opens the door to pagan worship inside of Catholic churches in the first place.
Correio da manhã reported further that it learned of correspondence between the Portuguese Nuncio and Fatima discussing possible candidates for bishop in the diocese of Leiria-Fatima. The newspaper also reported that the Bishop of Fatima, Bishop D. Serafim Ferreira e Silva, did not comment about his eventual replacement. In previous statements, he had already said that he intended to “ask for this resignation as diocesan bishop in June 2005,” when he will be 75, because he feels “tired”.
The Bishop of Fatima told TSF, (a Lisbon radio station) that he had “no official knowledge of any eventual criticism”. But Correio da manhã notes, “The need to appoint a press conference to deny the news revealed how nervous people are in the Sanctuary.”
Correio da manhã then reported, “TSF (the radio station) also confirmed yesterday that some bishops connected to more traditionalist movements had asked for the head of the Rector of the Sanctuary, Monsignor Luciano Guerra. The pressures of the Roman Curia to have the Rector replaced are not new. Earlier this year, Luciano Guerra was asked to explain himself about the presence of the Hindu priest in the Capelinha das Apariçtes. Considered now as the weakest link, the Rector should be replaced by the next Bishop of Leiria-Fatima. The Bishop of the Armed Forces, D. Januário Torgal Ferreira, a well-known leftist, “was close to the truth when he told the electronic newspaper Portugal Diário that what was being attacked was the work of the Rector of the Sanctuary and of D. Serafim. The attack came from the Roman cardinals.”
The story does not end here. According to the October 13 Jornal de Noticias, Bishop Serafim of Fatima has lashed out against the opponents of interreligious dialogue, only he misnames them “enemies of Fatima.”
Enemies of Liberal Ecumenism
are Enemies of Fatima?
Bishop Serafim said, “Father Kondor is responsible for the League of Friends of Fatima, but there are various leagues of enemies of Fatima which are already old and some are in the area of pseudo-science and others act on the Church’s doorstep.” He said this to journalists just before the beginning of the international anniversary pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Fatima.
The prelate even admitted that some of those “enemies” may be in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
Speaking of last year’s October inter-religious Congress, which was the first recent activity at Fatima to spark international protest, the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima said that these criticisms came from “lobbies, forces and agents possessing provocative intentions.” The bishop did everything but use the words “vast right-wing conspiracy”.
The bishop further said that he has confidence in the Rector and the Sanctuary team. He also said he has instruction from the Pope for interreligious dialogue.
As we go to press, the Vatican has neither confirmed nor denied the report that it has asked for the removal of Fatima’s bishop and Shrine Rector. I believe it unlikely that the Vatican will respond either way. Rather, it will probably let the matter die and leave everything status quo. If there were any rumblings from Rome about the Hindu ritual, it more likely came from those few in the Vatican mentioned earlier who do not approve of the new interreligious orientation and the “Spirit of Assisi”.
Sadly, these men are in the minority. In 2002, for example, Bologna’s Cardinal Biffi stood virtually alone when he refused to participate in Pope John Paul’s January 2002 interreligious Assisi event. Meanwhile the pagan invasion of the Catholic Church continues, the most recent example is the Dalai Lama’s public prayers with fellow Buddhists at the National Cathedral in Mexico City. More “Spirit of Assisi”, more trampling upon the Church’s sacred teaching and tradition, more profanations of Catholic sanctuaries, more promotion of religious indifferentism among the faithful.
A Pilgrimage of Reparation
Catholic Family News will continue its resistance to this new interfaith religion, as it stands condemned by the perennial doctrine and discipline of the Church. Father Gruner’s Fatima Center has put out more than one and a half million pieces of literature protesting the outrages at Fatima, including three issues of The Fatima Crusader, and letter packages mailed to every bishop in the world and to 60,000 priests. The Society of Saint Pius X has scheduled a pilgrimage of reparation to Fatima, (August 2005) and invites the faithful to participate. The SSPX is the only Catholic priestly fraternity that is taking a public stand against this outrage.
Regarding the SSPX pilgrimage, Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX, said, “On May 5, a group of Hindus invaded the place of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, naturally with all of the official authorization … They made this sacred place, so dear to Catholics, the forum for their idolatry.”
Fellay points the finger at the Vatican for “tolerating such abominations or, worse still, supporting them. They are distancing themselves with any accord with Tradition. We shall never give way to such affronts perpetuated against Our Lady of Heaven, the Mother of God.”
Bishop Fellay further says that these affronts demand “reparation” and calls on Catholics to join him and the Society of Saint Pius X in Fatima next year.