OPEN LETTER TO POPE JOHN PAUL II
Most Holy Father . . .
One year ago, planning began for a great Conference of Catholic bishops to be held in November 1994 in Mexico City, Mexico. The purpose of this Conference was to privately bring together our Church leaders to discuss the Message of Our Lady of Fatima and its unique Heaven-ordained role in the search for peace in our troubled world. As Our Lady said at Fatima, “If My requests are granted, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”
As organizers of this Conference, we were guided first and foremost by the teachings of our Holy Mother, the Church, especially those contained in documents of the Second Vatican Council pertaining to the rights and obligations of the laity. As Your Holiness knows, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church enjoins the Faithful to “disclose their needs and desires” to their pastors and states that “by reason of the knowledge, competence or pre-eminence which they have, the laity are empowered — indeed sometimes obliged — to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church.” (Lumen Gentium IV.37; See also the New Code of Canon Law 212.)
Your Own Advice, Holy Father
Moreover, in all our planning, Holiness, we were constantly mindful of the advice you yourself had offered in the presence of Cardinal Wyszynski in 1980 that those seeking the fulfillment of Our Lady's Fatima requests (especially the Consecration of Russia as a condition of world peace) should go to the bishops first and seek their support and assistance. From 1983 to 1993 we have written all the Catholic bishops numerous times about this matter, as well, we called and met with a number of bishops, particularly at our first Bishops Conference at Fatima in 1992.
As a result of all these efforts we have obtained the support of 700 Catholic bishops from every part of the world for the consecration of specifically Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But still it seemed we had not done enough.
And so, in the spring and early summer of 1994, in a pious and humble spirit, we wrote again to all the bishops of the world and invited them to come together in a private setting near the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico to openly and freely discuss the Message of Fatima. Through the generosity of many thousands of Faithful souls committed to the goals of this Conference, we were also able to offer the bishops the full financial assistance they needed to travel and stay in Mexico.
Your Holiness should know that, prior to sending this invitation, we had consulted in person with His Excellency, Bishop Ramon Godinez-Flores, Secretary-General of the Mexican Conference of Bishops, and informed him of our intentions. In May 1994, Bishop Flores gave his enthusiastic approval to the Conference and went so far as to offer us the rental of the Mexican Bishops' own official headquarters as a site for the Conference. We gladly accepted and provided His Excellency with an immediate deposit for the facility.
The Bishops Respond Enthusiastically!
Over the course of the next few months, we received many cordial replies from bishops around the world, indicating their intention to attend the Conference and warmly commending the notion of such an event. It is clear that the bishops have both an obligation and a right to know (as completely as possible) the full Message of Fatima, and they rejoiced at the opportunity. From the early and enthusiastic responses we received, we estimated that as many as 300 bishops would attend the Conference, representing close to 10 percent of the entire Catholic Episcopate worldwide! A tremendous accomplishment considering the private nature of the gathering and the logistical and travel difficulties involved.
It was at this time, Holy Father, that we began to receive disturbing reports of letters and phone calls being made by some few bureaucrats of the Holy See to various bishops and nuncios in a direct effort to discourage and even forbid participation in our Conference. At first, we could hardly believe these reports, not understanding why Vatican bureaucrats would or could object to a private gathering of Catholic bishops and priests whose only purpose was to freely discuss the plan for peace that God's Mother gave the world at Fatima!
A Campaign of Deception and Lies
Sadly, upon further investigation and with the assistance of sympathetic bishops, we discovered that indeed such letters had been sent from a few Vatican bureaucrats to chancelleries around the world. Incredibly, at a time when you yourself were forcefully speaking out publicly on the need for peace, these letters from your own subordinates suggested that our Conference was somehow inappropriate or out-of-order. To make matters worse, these letters contained outright lies and egregious libels concerning the prime organizer of the gathering, Father Nicholas Gruner. With no regard for the truth, Father Gruner's status as a priest-in-good-standing was called into serious question as well as his proven loyalty and dedication to Your Holiness' person and high office.
These unfounded charges and outrageous accusations were especially painful in the face of Father Gruner's long and tireless efforts (even at the expense of his own health) on behalf of Our Lady and Her Fatima Message. In the last 20 years, despite constant opposition from radical modernists and anti-Marian forces within the Church, he has succeeded in creating one of the largest lay Apostolates in the world, bringing together nearly 500,000 individuals in a community of prayer and sacrifice dedicated to promoting the full and complete Message of Fatima. Through magazines, radio and television programs and in public appearances in many countries, Father Gruner has brought the Mother of God's Fatima words to tens of millions of souls around the world ... and all in perfect accordance with the teaching and traditions of the Holy Magisterium. Father Nicholas Gruner's current status as priest-in-good-standing is unquestionable and dramatically verified by the testimonial you yourself issued on February 1, 1993, honoring his 16 years of priestly service and personally congratulating him on his work for Our Lady of Fatima.
No Word of Warning or Protest
Your Holiness, it is an understatement to say that we were dumbfounded when we first read the outrageous statement contained in these “official” letters. The Conference had been public news for many months, yet in all that time not a single Church official had even once contacted us with objections. More than 4,000 formal invitations had been sent to bishops, including yourself, and not a single word of protest had been received from any ecclesiastical authority. Now, only weeks before the Conference was due to commence, we found ourselves fighting against unseen enemies spreading false information and outright lies.
Despite our best efforts to counter this campaign of deception and lies by providing the true facts of the case, many bishops felt obliged to withdraw their support of the Conference out of fear and simple confusion. It soon became plainly obvious to us that spreading just this kind of dissension and confusion amongst the bishops was the underlying intention of this campaign in the first place! Adding insult to injury, not long before the event, we received a letter from Bishop Flores canceling our agreement for accommodation and withdrawing his official sanction. His Excellency cited comments made by an official of the Secretariat of State as being responsible for his decision.
Holy Father, we are sure you will understand that we were deeply discouraged and disheartened by these events. We debated long and hard whether we should move, postpone or cancel the Conference outright. In the end, we turned to Our Lord and Our Lady in prayer and, confident of Their guidance and protection, chose to continue our plans as originally announced. Even though time was critically short, by God's Grace, we were successful in obtaining (albeit at considerable financial cost) new meeting facilities and sleeping accommodations for the bishops. Through His Mercy, we were also able to overcome the last-minute legal and political impediments that Bishop Flores had engineered through the Mexican government (in clear violation of both God's law and Civil law) to prevent the issuance of travel visas to bishops who wished to attend our Conference. Blessed be God. Blessed be His Holy Name!
The Conference is Held!
On November 8, 1994, “the Conference on World Peace and the Immaculate Heart of Mary” was formally convened in Mexico City in the presence of bishops from every continent in the world as well as honored guests and members of the Catholic and secular press.
Over the next week, in a series of plenary sessions that were extraordinary for their seriousness and piety, the participants freely and openly discussed Our Lady's Fatima Message and its special role in the Church's effort to bring peace to our nations, to our families and to the world.
Your Holiness, while the number of bishops in attendance was far short of our original expectations, we were nevertheless deeply gratified that those who did attend represented so diverse and honored a cross-section of the Episcopacy. In prelates like Archbishop Accogli, Archbishop Capucci and Archbishop Milingo, we truly witnessed men who were worthy and noble successors to the Apostles themselves! We will forever be thankful for the courage and dedication that they and their colleagues showed in attending our Conference.
In the end, despite the sinister machinations of Our Lady 's enemies, the assembled delegates came together to produce an historic document that we believe represents a new treasure for the Church. Consisting of 14 Resolutions, this document reaffirms Our Lady of Fatima's crucial role in the process towards true peace and in the mystery of our salvation itself.
Archbishop Milingo Accuses the Bureaucrats!
Holy Father, it was left to a member of your own sacred Curia to deliver the most dramatic address of the Conference. Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, formerly Ordinary of Lusaka and now Special Delegate of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, rose and delivered an electrifying condemnation of those who had attempted to prevent this gathering of bishops from occurring.
Speaking to his fellow bishops and to the entire Catholic world, His Excellency deplored the efforts of a few Vatican bureaucrats to suspend the lawful authority of the Episcopacy and prevent the bishops from carrying out their duties and fulfilling their responsibilities. Holding a copy of the letter that had been sent to the bishops of Nigeria, Archbishop Milingo stated:
“What a pity! It is a humiliation to a human being, who is an apostle, a humiliation — intended to prevent him from fulfilling his duties according to his own personality and character ... It is sad. It is humiliating. It lowers the dignity of a human being to have a letter like this going around that actually prevents someone from coming to a conference for Our Lady. ... If this letter represents their way to control us, it means that they don't trust the people to whom they have given authority.”
Archbishop Milingo concluded his address by forcefully encouraging all those who truly believe in peace to persevere in our efforts to bring the full Fatima Message to the Faithful and to the world. As His Excellency said, “I think we can go very, very far if we can make each and every one of our Catholics concerned with the whole welfare of the world.” And, indeed, it is just in that spirit of Christian charity and with utmost respect and humility that we are publishing this Open Letter.
Holy Father, World Peace is in Your Hands!
The Blessed Mother of God came to Fatima to give the world the way to achieve true and lasting peace. She entrusted the means to this end to the Church, through you, the Vicar of Christ, in union with the bishops of the world. It has now been 78 years since Our Lady first appeared at Fatima. In that time, we have witnessed millions of lives destroyed through violence and war. Today, we continue to watch as millions of children are murdered in their own mothers' wombs and tens of thousands of more lives are lost each year in bloody conflicts around the globe. The Queen of Peace has offered us an end to this tragic cycle of death and misery if we will but obey Her requests for prayer, reparation and consecration.
Your Holiness, we intend to continue to do our part to encourage all Catholics and others of good will to place their trust in the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary. With all respect and love, we also intend to continue our efforts to bring Our Lady's full Fatima Message to the Church, particularly to you and your fellow bishops. Our campaign for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart (as commanded at Fatima) will continue unimpeded. We and the other 5,000,000 souls who have signed petitions to you asking for this act to be accomplished (and the millions more who await it) shall not be frightened or intimidated into silence by mere bureaucrats in pursuit of a private agenda.
The history of our Holy Church and the lives of our holy saints teaches us that we must resist evil from wherever it arises. Our hearts remain indissolubly united with yours, Holy Father, but we fear that you are being deceived and misled by those in whom you have placed your trust. The facts we have presented in this Open Letter combined with private information from Episcopal sources lead us inevitably to the conclusion that a small handful of Vatican bureaucrats are deliberately and maliciously withholding information from you and acting without proper authority in your august name. We respectfully urge you to take this opportunity to investigate the actions of those officials who — in clear violation of Canon Law and the Constitution of the Church — attempted to sabotage our recent Conference and blacken the name of a pious and humble priest who has sacrificed so greatly for the sake of Our Lady and the glory of Holy Mother Church.
We Appeal to You, Holy Father!
Your Holiness, at the time of our first Bishops' Conference in Fatima in 1992, we were appalled by the manifestly unjust statements made by certain Vatican bureaucrats who opposed the gathering. Nevertheless, we held our tongues, hoping and praying for Christian charity to prevail. We fully expected that, following the event, the magnitude of their error would be so obvious that these officials would publish an immediate retraction. At worst, we assumed that these illegal and unjust efforts to prevent us from promoting the Fatima Message would stop.
Now, following the events described in this Open Letter, it is manifestly clear that our patience and silence was taken by these individuals as a license for even more bold and unjust action against our attempts to bring Our Lady's Message to the bishops and to the world. After the bitter experiences of the last two Conferences, it now seems undeniable that there exists a small group of Vatican officials who have become so confident of their unbridled power that they will use any means (including lies, slander and libel) to silence anyone promoting the full Fatima Message. Thus, Holy Father, we are obliged to appeal to you directly in this public letter, trusting as always in your probity and fairness.
A New Conference is Announced!
At the Mexico City Conference in November, we were encouraged by the bishops and others in attendance to undertake yet another meeting of bishops to discuss the Message of Fatima and its role in the peace of the world. Several bishops specifically urged us to hold this next conference in Rome under your protection and guidance.
Lest we be accused of planning in secret or not seeking proper authorization, we here and now — in this public forum — announce that we shall yet for a 3RD time invite every bishop in the world (whether friend or foe of Fatima) to join together in Rome for a Conference on Peace and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, dates and times to be announced by formal letter and publication.
Holy Father, we pray that you will bestow your Papal Blessing on this meeting and, if possible, attend one or more of its sessions. No Pope has ever spoken as movingly as you have of the urgent need for peace nor given so much respect to the Message of Fatima. We believe it is therefore most fitting and proper that your name come first in the list of those in support of this historic event.
Submitted in all respect and love to Your Holiness and in the names of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother, Mary.
The Open Letter was signed by an archbishop, a bishop, many priests and religious as well as more than 9,000 lay supporters.
Spread across two full pages of the largest daily in Rome, the ad was a calm and articulate presentation to His Holiness John Paul II of everything that Father Gruner and the members of the Apostolate had yearned to say to their Pope over the past three years. The Open Letter was both a plea and chronicle: In tones both reverent and frank, a plea for the Collegial Consecration, and a chronicle of the systematic abuse of power by the anti-Fatima forces in the Vatican bureaucracy, who had acted as if they thought themselves above reproach and beyond the strictures of Canon Law.
Avoiding harsh polemics, while according the bureaucrats in question the dignity of anonymity, the Open Letter had vaulted the concerns of the 9,000 faithful Catholics who had signed it over a phalanx of papal advisors and into the full view of His Holiness.
Opponents of the Apostolate would call it a “scandal”, but the careful reader could see that the signatories of the Open Letter believed they were expressing true loyalty to the Pope in this, the Age of Fatima. They had launched a respectful but fearless entreaty to the Vicar of Christ—precisely because he is the Vicar of Christ—to bring about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and with it world peace and the Reign of Christ the King, by the means entrusted exclusively to the Pope at Fatima. Not the peace of an earthly Utopia, but the Reign of Christ the King, and Mary His Queen Mother. Not the grotesque accommodation of an ecumenical brotherhood between the adherents of contradictory and warring creeds, but the unity of one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism in a Catholic social order embracing the globe. The very globe beneath Our Lady's feet, as depicted in the Miraculous Medal whose design She Herself had specified in Her apparition to St. Catherine Labouré.
Yes, the signers of the Open Letter had advocated triumphalism, pure and simple. For triumph is the destiny of Christ from all Eternity, and the mission of His Holy Catholic Church is to secure that Triumph and nothing less than that Triumph, or we should be unfaithful to His unalterable commission: “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” All things whatsoever, including the necessity of joining the one true Church; and the necessity, too, of the Catholic Church obeying the Message of Fatima which “imposes an obligation on the Church” as the Holy Father himself had declared at Fatima on May 13, 1982.
In a Church which had been seething with open heresy and scandal for the past 35 years, the bureaucrats' global campaign against a cassock-wearing Marian priest from small-town Canada had been without precedent. Fittingly, so was this response by the thousands of rank-and-file Catholics who had supported Father Gruner's work over the years. To be sure, since the issuance of Humanae Vitae dissidents of all stripes had resorted to the forums of public opinion, even open letters in newspapers, to vent their splenetic fury against some detested article of the Faith. But never had loyal Catholics so clearly in awe of the power of the Papacy ever ventured to approach the Holy Father in this way: “Our hearts remain indissolubly united with yours, Holy Father, but we fear that you are being deceived and misled by those in whom you have placed your trust.” The Open Letter was an act of love, born of necessity. There was nothing else to do.
“‘No comment' was the Vatican's official reaction to the two-page ‘Open Letter’ to the Pope which appeared in Rome's largest daily paper Il Messaggero on July 12, 1995. The ad, entitled an Open Letter to His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, was paid for by the free-will offerings of nearly 10,000 Catholics from around the world.”
The Italian news media, including the major news agencies, devoted extensive coverage to the Open Letter after it appeared in Rome. The Venice-based Il Gazzettino spoke slightingly of “hardened traditionalists who do not realize that Russia has changed” and erroneously noted that “it is not the first time that Catholic groups from America buy full pages of European papers to publicize ideas and initiatives.” L'Indipendente described the ad as an “awkward form of correspondence,” whereas Milan's Il Giorno report called it “articulate” and an “unusual initiative from which the Vatican distances itself by saying ‘there is nothing to say’.” This was followed, several days later, by a full-page interview with the Papal advisor and Fatima expert, the Slovak bishop Pavao Maria Hnilica, who described the Open Letter as “undoubtedly significant” since it was published by a Marian movement that is “widespread throughout the world.”
There would soon be a talk show, the staple of Italian television, revolving around the “Open Letter”. In the crossfire of the participants, Father Rene Laurentin would finally be forced to admit, despite everything he had said before, that the Collegial Consecration of Russia requested by Our Lady of Fatima had never actually been done in the manner requested.1
Completely overlooked by the media was the appearance of another (this time, anonymous) ad in Il Giornale on July 14, headlined “July 13, 1917: Third Meeting with Our Lady”. July 13 is the anniversary of the third apparition of Fatima, a date scarcely noted by the media in their coverage of the Open Letter's publication. This anniversary coincided with one of the most horrific events in the ongoing Balkan conflict: the fall of Sbrenicia. The ensuing massacres, rapes and mass displacements featured prominently on the front pages of all the newspapers, were a terrible (if unconscious) reminder of the great chastisement of war that forms so integral a part of the Fatima Message.
At offices of Il Messaggero itself, which curiously ran no story about the Open Letter, the phones rang incessantly the day after publication, until they were taken off the hook. It was reported that more than one of the callers was a furious Vatican bureaucrat demanding to know how this could have happened. One can well imagine the commotion in the Vatican offices of those who had devoted their ecclesiastical careers to such “triumphs” as the Vatican-Moscow Agreement and the surrender at Balamand. Above all else, the Open Letter was a reminder that Heaven has ordained that real, lasting peace will never come through negotiations with the powers of the world. It will come through the Mother of God, mediating to men the non-negotiable and irresistible fiat of Christ the King.
The Mother of God does not lie. It is only through Her that Russia will be converted— converted — and peace granted to the world. The Open Letter had pleaded with the Pope and the world to address what is manifest: that the Consecration has not been done. Certainly the errors of Russia have spread across the planet. No one with eyes to see could genuinely claim that those errors have undergone a contraction since the putative consecration of 1984. Rather, they have only deepened and intensified, finding new and more evil ramifications by the day. Unless the Holy Father commands all the bishops of the world to join him in the act of consecration, the errors of Russia will most certainly enslave the world.
Hence the Open Letter, whatever the consequences it might bring to Father Gruner and the Apostolate.
St. Peter's Square, evening: Father Gruner responds to a request to bless a rosary. It is for a grandmother who is a “fervent Catholic”. The young California woman holding the rosary out to be blessed is well spoken, beautifully respectful and totally self-composed. She volunteers that she herself is not a Catholic. She listens courteously and with genuine interest as Father Gruner commences with ease to instruct her and her companion. She could have had no way of knowing that the priest leading her into considerations of the Faith is arguably the most controversial priest in the Church today.
Father Nicholas Gruner has been at the center of one controversy or another his entire priestly life. But he has never claimed to be anything other than a priest promoting the Message of Our Lady of Fatima. As such, he has attracted the animosity, envy, and hatred of his adversaries, plus the regular censorship of those “Untouchables” in the Catholic Press who feign righteous horror at his tactics. What he is and what he does is known worldwide. Yet there is about his priesthood an aspect that draws intense fire from those who would like to see his traditional style of priesthood vanish.
In conjunction with the Open Letter, Father Gruner brought 40,000 petitions from Catholics around the world, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of petitions he had already delivered. All of the petitions pleaded with the Holy Father to consecrate Russia according to the exact specifications of the Virgin—pleaded with His Holiness because it is manifest that something is wrong. In the nine years which followed the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, nine million souls, an entire nation, climbed out of the abyss of pagan idolatry and human sacrifice and into the sanctuaries of Catholic churches, baptized and converted. But now it is 14 years since the putative consecration of Russia in 1984—in which the bishops had not participated and only the world, not Russia, had been mentioned. In those 14 years, the most optimistic reports indicated around one hundred thousand conversions in a nation of two hundred and fifty million people, including the Ukraine.
Indeed, the conversion of Russia had incredibly, been forbidden by the Vatican bureaucrats whose capitulation at Balamand would bar as “outdated” the return of the Russian Orthodox to the Holy Catholic Church.
Having been forbidden to convert, Russia had become even more corrupted by her errors, while the world had continued its ever-accelerating descent down that declivity whose terminus is Hell. None of this could have come to pass if Our Lady's Message had been fulfilled. For Our Lady does not lie. Her designs of peace had been thwarted by men.
The size of the constituency represented in the Open Letter is staggering for those who have not followed the Apostolate's ups and downs. But would that constituency and the Apostolate remain intact during the events of the coming year, as the conference in Rome approached and the bureaucratic thrusts aimed at the heart of Father Gruner's priesthood seemed near to striking the mark? Perhaps the answer would lie in the decree of yet another benevolent prelate who would come forward in the cause of Our Lady of Fatima.
1. Father Laurentin made this statement on the Italian television talk show FORMAT-MISTERI, after Paolo Apolito challenged him on the topic; Giovanni Minoli, director; Lorenza Roschini, interviewer; Autumn 1995.