Rome, Italy, May 5, 2008 / 09:56 am
On Sunday during a Mass celebrated in the town of Laus in the French Alps, Bishop Jean-Michel de Falco of Gap, accompanied by numerous cardinals and archbishops from around the world, announced the official approval of the Church of the Marian apparitions to Benôite (Benedicta) Rencurel between 1664 and 1718.
During the Mass, attended by Roman Curia officials including Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, Bishop de Falco noted these are the first Marian apparitions to be approved in the 21st century by the Vatican and the Church in France. He called it the most singular event to take place in France since the apparitions of Lourdes in 1862.
“I recognize the supernatural origin of the apparitions and the events and words experienced and narrated by Benedicta Rencurel. I encourage all of the faithful to come and pray and seek spiritual renewal at this shrine,” the bishop said.
“Nobody is obliged to believe in apparitions,” he continued, “even in those officially recognized, but if they help us in our faith and our daily lives, why should we reject them?” he asked. Bishop de Falco’s comment was apparently aimed at the French Communist Party, which last week described the announcement of the ceremony as “a marketing ploy of the Church” and denounced the presence of French government officials at the ceremony as a “violation of the separation of church and state.”
The shrine of Our Lady of Laus attracts some 120,000 pilgrims each year. The Catholic philosopher Jean Guitton called it “one of the most hidden and powerful shrines of Europe.”
Our Lady’s message
Benedicta Rencurel was born on September 16, 1647 in Saint-Étienne d'Avançon (in the southern French Alps), and suffered the death of her father when she was 7 years-old. She never learned to read or write and her only education came from the homilies at Sunday Mass.
One day in May of 1664, Benedicta was caring for the animals of some neighbors and praying the rosary when she saw a dazzling lady standing on a rock, holding a beautiful child in her arms. “Beautiful Lady!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing up there? Do you want to eat with me? I have some good bread which we can soften up at the fountain.” The girl’s simplicity brought a smile to the Lady’s face, but she said nothing. “Beautiful Lady! Could you give us that child? He would make us so happy.” The Lady smiled again without responding. After remaining a few minutes with Benedicta, she took the child in her arms and disappeared into a cave.