By Michael H. Brow
APPARITION IN BRAZIL REOPENS FASCINATING, PERPLEXING CLAIM OF BLESSED MOTHER IN WARTIME ITALY
What does one say when the Virgin Mary reportedly appears at an apparition site that has been approved by the local bishop in one country and bears a message stating that another apparition in another country that was disapproved decades before in fact had merits: was real, despite one bishop’s determination?
Here one has to tread very carefully.
This apparently is what has occurred at Itapiranga, Brazil, with apparitions that were approved (at least those from 1994 to 1998) by Archbishop Carillo Gritti of Itacoatiara. The approval came in 2009 at the edge of the Amazon, about 1,770 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro, for appearances of Mary that reportedly have occurred to a young man named Edson Glauber and his mother Maria do Carmo (and allegedly continue to this day).
In those alleged Brazilian revelations, according to a website called Miracle Hunter, Mary “speaks to the truth of some previous apparitions in a town called Ghiaie di Bonate, Italy, near Bergamo (just northwest of Milan) where she introduces herself as the Queen of the Family. The young male seer in Brazil had never heard of the apparition, nor knew the place. With the spiritual director, an Italian priest, he had the opportunity to visit Ghiaie di Bonate, with the permission of his bishop of Manaus (where he relocated). In Italy, in different places, he had apparitions of Mary that confirmed appearances in Ghiaie di Bonate and insisted on the recitation of the Rosary and penance to save the world ill because of unbelief. There is a great emphasis on prayer, the Holy Mass, Confession, and Communion.”
To repeat: that’s interesting because the apparitions at Ghiaie di Bonate (we’ll call this site “Bergamo”) were strongly rejected by the bishop there. But as it turns out: that may be only the beginning of the story.
It was on May 13, 1944 — anniversary day of Fatima, in war-torn Italy — that Mary allegedly began to speak to a girl named Adelaide Roncalli. At the time, Adelaide was only seven. The apparitions, all occurring during May (thirteen in total), came towards the end of World War Two, causing some to proclaim them as “Fatima’s epilogue.”
While the main messages had to do with prayer for sinners, there were also requests for intercessions on behalf of the Pope (whose life, the seer claimed, was in danger). Witnesses in Bergamo reported major solar phenomena and one testified that during the apparition on May 20, 1944, “somebody noticed a strange beam of light, shining upon the child and reverberating over the surrounding faces.
“Others noticed the sun had a cross shape;
“Others saw the solar disc whirl dizzily forming a ring not larger than half meter.
“In the lower layers of the atmosphere some people saw a rain of gold stars, small yellow clouds in the shape of hoops, so thick and near that somebody tried to catch them in full flight. On the onlookers’ hands and faces the most various colors shaded off, with the yellow color prevailing over the others.”
That was all well and good, in fact fascinating (such colors were likewise reported at Fatima). But matters grew complicated when a young philosopher and teacher at the Bergamo seminary, Don Luigi Cortesi (playing what was described as “devil’s advocate” and soon reporting back to the bishop) arrived at the apparition site. Pressing the young girl during lengthy interrogations, Cortesi at one point in no uncertain terms reportedly warned her, “You do evil when you claim you have seen Our Lady.”
After the apparitions, the inquisitor took the girl away from Ghiaie di Bonate and subjected her to more rigorous cross-examination and a regimen of psychological and “moral” tests.
During that scrutiny — in 1945, when Adelaide was eight — Cortesi reportedly got the girl (some say compelled her) to sign a declaration stating that the apparitions were not true. “In a room of the Orsoline’s convent in Bergamo, after closing all doors, Don Cortesi dictated the words to be written on the wretched note,” the seer later claimed, bitterly. “I remember perfectly that, on account of the state of moral violence I was being submitted to, I stained it and he split the sheet of paper and made me write it again, with great patience, in order to reach his aim. That’s how the betrayal was carried out.”
This is her rendition.The statement she signed said (shockingly):
“It is not true that I saw Our Lady. I told a lie, because I saw nothing. I did not have the courage to speak the truth, but then I told everything to Don Cortesi. Now I regret having told so many lies. [signed] Adelaide Roncalli. Bergamo-15th-September 1945.” Adelaide later claimed that Cortesi had told her no one would ever see the declaration but himself.
Once back with her family for a few weeks, however — states a detailed website recounting the controversy, on July 12, 1946, at a school in Ghiaie di Bonate — Adelaide reasserted the authenticity in writing: “It is true that I saw Our Lady (I formerly said that I did not see Our Lady because Don Cortesi had dictated this to me and I wrote what he wanted out of obedience).” [signed] Adelaide Roncalli” (as witnessed by seven present: the parish priest, four nuns, and two others).
Eventually, Cortesi was prohibited from contact with the girl. But not before his report apparently compelled Bishop Adriano Bernareggi of Bergamo (working with a theological committee) to declare on April 30, 1948 :
“1) We do not acknowledge the reality of the apparitions and revelations of the Blessed Virgin to Adelaide Roncalli at Ghiaie di Bonate in May 1944.
“2) We hereby declare that it is not in our mind to exclude that Our Lady, faithfully invoked by those who in good faith believed She really appeared at Ghiaie, may have granted special and non customary recoveries, thereby rewarding their devoutness.
“3) Therefore every form of devotion for Our Lady, worshipped as appeared at Ghiaie di Bonate, in compliance with the canonical laws, remains hereunder forbidden.”
In other words, the site was condemned (beyond a simple statement that it was not supernatural). Curiously, it is in a part of Italy where at least two other reputed appapritions, at San Damiano and Montichiari, were likewise rejected.
Another huge twist reportedly came one year after the Episcopal decree, in 1949, when, despite the bishop’s judgment, Pope Pius XII granted Adelaide — now twelve — a private audience. We cannot confirm this. It is on a website that otherwise has seemed reliable and deeply detailed [see here]. “She revealed the secret intended for him that Our Lady had confided to her on the 17th May 1944 during the fifth apparition,” says another source.
More complicated still: The bishop allowed her to enter a convent at age fifteen (something the Blessed Mother had allegedly requested) but she was forced to leave after the bishop’s death; at the convent, she again had been pressed on the apparitions and, frightened at what Cortesi had discussed years before, again expressed doubts over what had occurred. Eventually, tired of waiting for readmission, she married and moved to Milan, where she dedicated her life to caring for the infirm.
Meanwhile, many reported miraculous and sometimes spontaneous healings at Bergamo.
On July 8, 1960, Pope John XXIII reportedly sent a letter to monsignor Joseph Battaglia, Bishop of Faenza, “with regard to the Ghiaie question.”
“Dear Excellency, let us always be united in thought, heart, prayer,” he reportedly wrote (again, according to the website devoted to the history). “As to the Ghiaie affair you will certainly appreciate that one must start from the top, not from the plane: and not involve who must have not the first but the last word. More than substance, here we must allow for the circumstances that need to be studied and valued above all things.
What is valid in ‘subiecta materia’ is the seer’s witness: and the authenticity of what she still maintains at twenty-one years of age and in conformity with her first statement at seven years of age: and withdrawn on account of the threats and fears of hell exerted by somebody. It seems to me that the terror for those threats still persists.
However Your Excellency understands that it is neither practical nor useful that the first move for reassessment be made by the undersigned who is entitled to the ‘verbum’ for the Congregation of Liturgy or other ministry, who in due time ‘faciat verbum cum S.S.’ ecc. Excuse the plainness of my words. And always look after yourself ‘in laetitia et in benedictione’ even if ‘dies mali sunt.’ Yours affectionately John XXIII.”
In 1974 — on the thirtieth anniversary of the apparitions — another bishop, upon receiving a petition, stated that he could not reopen the case but allowed pilgrims to go there.
And now, in a new century — in the 2000s — the apparition comes alive once more, with a seer in Brazil not only reaffirming the legitimacy of the Bergamo situation (again, a circumstance he was not aware of, before being told by the Blessed Mother about it), but traveling there and receiving alleged apparitions.
Real? Unreal? It is not always easy to ferret out a discernment.
On February 20, 1989, Adelaide Roncalli decided to reassert, officially and solemnly, before a notary public, the truthfulness of the apparitions, says the aforementioned website. “I the undersigned Roncalli, Adelaide born at Ghiaie di Bonate Sopra (Bergamo) on April 23, 1937, on occasion of the forty-fifth anniversary of the apparitions declare hereby again, as repeatedly stated on previous occasions, that I am absolutely persuaded of having had the apparitions of Our Lady at Ghiaie di Bonate from the 13th to the 31st May 1944 when I was seven of age. I offer to God and to the rightful Authority of the Church, which is solely entitled to acknowledge or not what with clear conscience and in full possession of my mental faculties I deem to be the plain truth, the vicissitudes sorrowfully experienced by me since then on. In witness thereof … [signed Adelaide Roncalli, 20th February 1989.”
[Footnote: in July of 1944, Father Agostino Gemelli, the world-famous psychiatrist and psychologist, “expressly entrusted by the bishop with the in-depth examinations of the child Adelaide Roncalli,” says the website Madonba della Ghiaie, “It is to be excluded that the person in question is abnormal and that mendacity underlies the story of the visions. My four-day-long observation would have enabled us, especially through mental tests, to show up such a personality in whose clinical picture the wish for lying or showing her own personality under a light different from reality would have appeared immediately and plainly. That can be absolutely ruled out, also because the young girl never runs back over the story of the visions spontaneously; when questioned, she hangs her head, looks grave, falls silent; besides, all her personality appears to the psychiatrist like a personality dominated by spontaneity, simplicity, directness, that is by characters that cannot be imitated by a young girl… We are witnessing a precociously positive type, realistic and concise, that is what is furthermost from the hysterical type… thanks to the exclusion of morbid or unusual forms of the personality, we can declare that the claimed visions of Bonate are true, are not the fruit of a sick mind, neither an effect of imagination, nor an effect of suggestion…”]