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Fr. Stefano Cecchin OFMFacebook/Screenshot

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The president of the Pontifical International Marian Academy (PAMI) has stated that a newly formed group inside the academy will judge any alleged Marian “apparitions which speak of the punishments from God” to be “absolutely false,” raising questions about what advice he will give to the world’s bishops. 

On April 15, 2023, a new body was established within the PAMI, which is set to provide key training and guidance to Catholic bishops on how to respond to alleged Marian apparitions. Reportedly it is a direct response to requests from bishops themselves for assistance dealing with alleged Marian phenomena. 

Called the Observatory for apparitions and mystical phenomena relating to Mary, it will attempt to provide “clarity” regarding alleged Marian apparitions. It will “analyze and interpret the various cases of apparitions, lacrimations [weeping statues], but also interior locutions, stigmata and other phenomena in the world that are in progress or have already occurred, but still awaiting a pronouncement on authenticity by ecclesiastical authority.”

READ: New series to promote Fatima devotion of Our Lady’s First Saturdays

Speaking to Vatican News in April, PAMI president Father Stefano Cecchin OFM stated “it is important to provide clarity, because often alleged messages generate confusion, spread anxious apocalyptic scenarios or even accusations against the Pope and the Church.” 

“How could Mary, Mother of the Church, undermine its integrity or sow fear and opposition, she who is Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace?” he questioned. “Likewise, it is important to provide formative support because dealing with certain cases requires adequate preparation.”

In a similar vein, Cecchin spoke to Spanish-language outlet Alfa y Omega about the new observatory, making strong and somewhat contradictory statements about the observatory’s role. 

READ: Why has the Vatican previously refused to consecrate Russia as Our Lady asked?

“We are not here to take the place of the bishops; we only offer formation,” he began, before continuing:

We are the only ones competent in the subject of the figure of Mary in the whole world. Our scholars are accredited by the Holy See. That is to say, we are recognized as experts in this discipline and, therefore, with the right to intervene. When we get down to work, we do so with a certificate from the Holy See that accredits us as trustworthy people, without outside interests. But it is the bishops who make the final judgment and have the last word.

Cecchin, who is one year into his second five-year term as PAMI president, continued by rejecting as “false” any alleged apparitions which spoke of divine punishment. The Franciscan referenced the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) 1978 norms for judging alleged apparitions, but spoke of certain other “warning signs” of such events, saying:

But there are warning signs. Does a mother want to punish her children by sending them illnesses, death… ? No way. So the apparitions that speak of punishments from God are absolutely false.

The CDF’s 1978 norms do not mention judging an alleged apparition based on its referring to divine punishment. Presenting positive and negative criteria for judging an event, it simply lists negative criteria as including:

  • Clear error about the event.
  • Doctrinal errors relating to the event.
  • Evidence of profiteering from the alleged event.
  • “Gravely immoral acts” committed by the alleged visionary or his followers if linked to the vision.
  • Psychological disorder on the part of the alleged visionary.

While Cecchin claimed universal authority on the subject of Marian events, the PAMI does not itself make such a claim. The – now-archived – website states that alongside the role of co-ordinating and furthering Mariological study, the PAMI is to “give a sound and integral Mariological formation recognized and in accordance with the norms of the Catholic Church.” It does not claim the authority on such matters which Cecchin does.

READ: German cardinal: John Paul II yielded to pressure from advisers not to name Russia in consecration

However, Cecchin’s statements have caused alarm amongst Catholics. Speaking to LifeSiteNews, Deacon Nick Donnelly warned that the friar’s claim was “absolutely contrary to divine revelation.”

“Fr. Cecchin’s decision to exclude Marian apparitions that ‘speak of God’s punishments’ is absolutely contrary to divine revelation,” he said. 

The Old Testament prophets warn of the dire punishments associated with the eschatological Day of the Lord. And our Lord often mentions the punishments of Hell and those associated with His Second Coming. These punishments are further explicated in St. John’s Apocalypse.

“Therefore,” continued the catechist, “we can assume from divine revelation that any authentic Marian apparition that deals with eschatology will explicitly mention God’s punishments.” 

Donnelly slated Cecchin’s exclusion of divine punishment” as being “just the latest example of the Bergoglian pontificate’s imposition of a false understanding of divine mercy that is non-judgemental and non-punitive.” 

By so doing, the Bergoglians deny God’s holiness and justice necessitating the punishment of our sin.

What of apparitions that mention punishment?

Indeed, while Cecchin’s observatory is to study new alleged apparitions, and not pronounce new judgement on ones already approved, his statements raise concerning questions about previous apparitions. 

The apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, widely accepted by Catholics across the globe as some of the most crucial of recent times, speak particularly about divine punishment for the sins of man. On July 13, 1917, Our Lady showed the three young visionaries a vision of Hell, warning of the consequences of man’s sin.

READ: The untold secrets of the Fatima consecration of Russia by Pope John Paul II

She stated:

You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the reign of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.

She also noted the dire consequences which would result from the Popes rejecting her request for the consecration of Russia, according to the manner in which she specifically requested. “If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church,” she said. 

The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. 

Why the continued Vatican rejection of Our Lady of Fatima?

Cecchin’s statement is if nothing else consistent with his previous comments. Hours prior to Pope Francis’ 2022 prayer of “entrustment and consecration,” Cecchin took to the airwaves to issue forth against the importance of Fatima, downplaying the Fatima message and request and instead promoted Synodality. But his latest interview, rejecting Marian messages that speak of punishment, comes in the wake of a long controversy over the continued Papal refusal to perform the consecration of Russia according to the Fatima message.

READ: Why is a leading Vatican theologian rejecting Fatima links to Pope Francis’ consecration of Russia? 

While the message of Fatima has been quietly ignored by many in the Vatican in recent years, leading prelates have continued to call for the Marian apparition to be given due attention. Notably, Cardinal Raymond Burke has for years issued a call for the consecration to be performed as requested, along with Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

As noted on these digital pages already, for many decades the Vatican made a studious avoidance of making the consecration of Russia as Our Lady asked. Questions have been raised about why the Vatican has refused to obey a request from the Mother of God for decades, with links made to the secretive Metz Pact, signed by the Vatican and Moscow in 1962.

Under that agreement, the “Vatican Secretary of State, since October 1962, has agreed not to condemn the errors of Russia” – an agreement that is still in place to this day. Commenting on the Metz Pact, Fatima expert Christopher Ferrara wrote, “This policy, which is still in place today, is fundamentally and therefore directly opposed to Our Lady of Fatima’s specific condemnation of the errors of Russia.” 

For the explicit mention of Fatima is intrinsically linked to the explicit condemnation of the errors of Russia. In June 2000, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and then-Josef Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that:

Fatima is undoubtedly the most prophetic of modern apparitions… especially to the frightening vision of hell, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Second World War, and finally the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism.

On March 25 last year, Vatican News published an interview with Father Kirill Gorbunov, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God of Moscow, who noted how the 2022 prayer of consecration “is very closely tied with the Fatima private revelation of Our Lady, and the Russian Orthodox Church is officially quite suspicious toward this Fatima revelation, especially about the conversion of Russia.”

The relation between the requested consecration of Russia and the errors of Russia and Communism is absolute. To perform the consecration of Russia in the manner requested by Our Lady of Fatima means to acknowledge and condemn the errors spreading from Russia. 

LifeSiteNews has already questioned whether this motive could have been behind the repeated refusal to explicitly name Russia in the previous attempts Popes have made at the consecration. Could it be that this same spirit is not only motivating the Popes but is endemic among Rome’s Mariologists, so that instead of promoting devotion to Our Lady and expounding on the relevant aspects of theology, they are instead choosing to downplay her request, and her role in the Church, in order to conform to shady Vatican-Moscow politics?