Despite Ambiguous Denial, Shocked Catholics Continue Protest
Site of Fatima Apparitions to Become “Interfaith” Facility?
November 24, 2003, Fort Erie, Ontario - Roman Catholics worldwide have been shocked and dismayed by press reports of a plan to build, at a cost of $47,600,000, a huge stadium-like “interfaith” facility beside the existing Fatima Shrine in Portugal, opening the Catholic holy site to worship on an equal footing by non-Catholics of all kinds, including Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and other pagans.
Recent reports of the proposed plan in the English-language The Portugal News and Fatima’s own local newspaper, Notícias de Fátima elicited a strong and immediate denunciation from The Fatima Center, the worlds leading organization devoted to Our Lady of Fatima. The Center’s international director, Father Nicholas Gruner, whose quarterly magazine, The Fatima Crusader, reaches over one million readers, called the plan “an absolute outrage”, and promised to mobilize his supporters and other Catholics to oppose it.
“Of all Sanctuaries sacred to Catholics around the world”, Father Gruner said, “Fatima is surely the most outrageous choice imaginable for a scandalous project of this kind. The Fatima Message is specifically directed at the Catholic Church. It says nothing about accommodating other religions in any way, let alone treating them as equals. To turn this uniquely holy site into a place where pagan idols are worshiped is an insult to millions of believing Catholics, as well as a direct affront to the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
While details are sketchy, it would appear that the plan emerged from a congress held in mid-October at Fatima, with the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Jose de Cruz Policarpo, presiding. The Cardinal apparently raised no objections to the plan presented in conjunction with the congress by Monsignor Luciano Guerra, who has long served as Rector of the Fatima Shrine and who controls the substantial revenues associated with one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the world.
Both Portuguese newspapers began their reports with similar headlines: "Fatima to Become Interfaith Shrine" said the Portugal News. "Sanctuary to Various Creeds" ran the red-inked-headline on the front page of the local Fatima paper Notícias de Fátima.
On the inside pages of the latter, yet another headline read “Sanctuary Opens Itself to Religious Pluralism”, followed by a subhead that was certain to startle many readers: “The Shrine of Fatima assumes a universalist and welcoming vocation towards different religions.”
Both papers prominently featured similar statements that: “the future of Fatima would be able to pass through the creation of a shrine where different religions can mingle”, but The Portugal News attributed these words directly to Monsignor Guerra.
Notícias de Fátima quoted Monsignor Guerra as stating: “I think one can believe that it was the express will of Our Lady to choose Fatima.” He also claimed that “the very name Fatima points toward the opening of coexistence of different creeds at this shrine”.
Responding to the Rector’s comments, Father Paul Kramer, a theologian associated with The Fatima Center, stated that “Catholic moral theology plainly teaches that the declared intention to carry out such a plan constitutes a grievous offense (a mortal sin) against the First Commandment as well as an act of apostasy, because it is an outright rejection of the Christian faith and 2000 years of Catholic theology and morals. Certainly, Our Blessed Mother Mary would never agree with such an outrage against Her Son and our Holy Catholic Faith.”
Controversial Congress Elicits Protests
One of the principal speakers at the recent congress in support of the plan was Belgian-born Jesuit priest Jacques Dupuis. Outlining his version of interreligious “progress”, he declared to the applause of the Rector and others present that “the religion of the future will be a general converging of religions in a universal Christ that will satisfy all.” The congress later published a document calling for all religions to cease proselytizing, and to “treat each religion on the same footing of equality.”
“The views expressed by Father Dupuis and endorsed by Monsignor Guerra at this congress are heresy, pure and simple,” said John Vennari, editor of the monthly journal Catholic Family News, who attended the congress at the request of Father Gruner’s organization and whose full report can be read on the group’s website (http://www.fatima.org). “Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the Catholic Faith,” added Mr. Vennari, “knows that the interfaith religion promoted at this congress held at Fatima is contrary to fundamental Catholic teaching and a blasphemy before God.”
Mr. Vennari noted that organized opposition to the controversial congress had already begun with volunteers from The Fatima Center and other alert Catholic groups distributing pro-Fatima material during the recent congress, including the Centers own Chronology of a Cover-Up booklet which documents a long history of the bureaucratic antagonism in Catholic Church circles, including Fatima, to Our Lady’s Message.
In response to this early opposition, Monsignor Guerra angrily attacked opponents of his project, dismissing them as “old-fashioned, narrow-minded fanatic extremists and provocateurs.” Guerra’s iron-fisted control over the Shrine’s policies and finances have long been the subject of considerable debate both within Fatima and without. He has been frequently criticized for what many have characterized as a ruthless and dictatorial approach to his office. He was publicly accused of orchestrating the October 1992 physical attack on Father Gruner that took place within the Fatima Shrine by a Shrine employee.
Following several weeks of growing protest and controversy on the Internet and elsewhere, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the head of the Vatican’s department for interreligious dialogue, was asked to comment about the plan by the British Catholic journal The Universe. In his brief response, the Archbishop said that “there was no question of the Fatima sanctuary becoming an interfaith pilgrimage center,” but notably left open the issue of whether the shrine would continue to promote radical ecumenical activities of the type proposed by the recent congress (of which he was a prominent attendee).
In an article for the Catholic biweekly The Remnant, well-known columnist Christopher Ferrara observed that Archbishop Fitzgerald had conspicuously failed to repudiate Monsignor Guerras claim that Fatima “must pass through the creation of a shrine where different religions can mingle” or to distance himself from the heretical theology of Father Dupuis which he, in fact, extravagantly praised at the Fatima congress. While “Fatima may not be an interreligious Mecca today,” wrote Ferrara, “it has now been established that the shrine (in Fitzgeralds words) has an interreligious dimension.”
Catholics Plan Protests
In a recent interview, Father Gruner wondered out loud “Why has the Rector of the Shrine never promoted the full Fatima Message, nor urged the specific consecration of Russia as requested by Our Lady of Fatima, nor protested the continuing withholding of the Third Secret? Why has he never objected to the more than 40-year-long silencing of Sister Lucy, the only surviving Fatima seer? Above all, why, when he’s supposed to be the guardian of this holy Catholic site, is he using it instead to promote an heretical and apostate project that seeks to dissolve all religions into a mongrel mixture?
"The Message of Fatima," Father Gruner continued, "contains strong and unequivocal affirmations of Catholic doctrine, and equally strong recommendations for uniquely Catholic devotions. It also explicitly seeks the conversion of millions to Catholicism, and the global expansion of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These things are the very opposite of these so-called ‘ecumenical’ policies that treat all religions as equally valid and that abandon seeking the eternal salvation of billions of souls by refusing to actively seek the conversion of all non-Catholics.”
“It would be bad enough if they wanted to build something that was simply irrelevant or unrelated to Fatima,” added Father Kramer. “But this is a project that is overtly hostile to Fatima. It promotes the opposite of what Our Lady at Fatima urged upon the Church, and upon all mankind. This isn’t just objectionable to people who fervently live the Fatima Message, it’s objectionable to all Catholics, everywhere.”
Father Gruner has indicated that his organization is starting a prayer campaign, which includes collecting pledges of Rosaries worldwide, to save Fatima from being desecrated by having pagan or any other non-Catholic worship services on the Sanctuary grounds.
The Fatima Center is already gathering signatures on a formal petition to be delivered to the Pope and all Portuguese Bishops, demanding that such a project be halted once and for all. “We are going to invite all our readers, listeners and viewers and many other Catholic organizations and individuals to join us in making certain that Our Lady’s Shrine is not subject to desecration and destruction.
“We want a clear, unambiguous promise from the Portuguese Bishops and the Pope himself that they will never allow pagan worship or worship services of other false religions at the Fatima Shrine.”
Father Gruner’s Fatima Center, based in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, publishes a quarterly magazine, The Fatima Crusader, and also promotes the Fatima Message through Rosary Rallies, books, radio and television broadcasts, and one of the most popular religious sites on the World Wide Web.
See www.fatima.org for more information.
FROM: The Fatima Center.
452 Kraft Road, Fort Erie, Ontario, L2A 4M7, Canada
CONTACT: Father Paul Kramer or Coralie Graham
TELEPHONE: 905-871-7607 FAX: 905-871-5274
EMAIL: email@example.com OR WEBSITE: www.fatima.org