|Flores Advises Catholics to Avoid Costa Rican Group
Some in S.A. Believe Virgin Appearing There and Issuing Warnings
By J. Michael Parker
San Antonio Express-News [Texas]
November 16, 2003
In an extremely rare move, Archbishop Patrick Flores has issued a public warning to Catholics to stay away from a group in Costa Rica that some have called a doomsday cult.
Members of the group, which has attracted several San Antonians, claim the Blessed Virgin Mary has been appearing to Juan Pablo Delgado, 23, for the past four years under the title of the Queen and Lady of All Creation.
The messages Delgado said the Virgin has given him include warnings of divine chastisements, annihilation of nations, and plagues unless "the United States, a country of armaments," and Russia are consecrated to her by three unnamed bishops in a Eucharistic celebration.
A message dated June 22, 2002, warns that Pope John Paul II will be removed from his throne and a false pope will take over. The messages are posted at www.queenofallcreation.com.
San Antonians who have been to the little mountain chapel near San Isidro de Grecia, 40 miles north of San Jose, Costa Rica, say the messages reportedly given by the Virgin have been consistent with Catholic teaching and the religious activities there have changed people's lives.
Deacon Pat Rodgers, director of communications for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said the archdiocese has received numerous calls concerning the claimed apparitions.
In his column in this week's "Today's Catholic," the archdiocese newspaper, Flores wrote that neither the bishop of Alajuela nor the archbishop of San Jose have sanctioned the claimed apparitions and have urged him to caution San Antonians not to get involved with the group.
"I recommend this for your good and the good of the universal church," Flores wrote.
"If (the apparitions) ever receive the approval of the bishops, somewhere down the line, then it will be made public. It has already been made public that it does not have the approval of the bishop or the archbishop in that area."
Flores said Costa Rican bishops also are concerned over apparent irregularities involving the Blessed Sacrament and unauthorized celebration of the sacraments by nonpriests and others without authority from the local bishop.
While Flores didn't mention a name, San Antonio priest Alfredo Prado has been performing sacramental rites at the site without church authority, according to media reports.
Prado's priestly faculties were suspended in 1991 by his religious order in San Antonio, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, because of unspecified personal conduct, said Father Sal De George, area superior for the order.
Prado has been forbidden to function as a priest, and the Oblates said they have initiated a canonical process of dismissing him from the order because of his disobedience.
But local devotees of the Costa Rica apparitions don't see any reason to stay away.
Jay Vela, a member of St. Brigid's Parish here who said he has been to the site three times, said church officials have never visited San Isidro de Grecia to see firsthand what's going on.
Vela said he was skeptical when he first went to Costa Rica in September.
"But it was the first time in many years that I've had a sense of truly being forgiven for my sins," he said.
The Catholic Church believes the Blessed Virgin has appeared in many places, and it has approved of apparitions in Mexico City; Lourdes, France; and Fatima, Portugal, among other places.
Bill Nypaver, a member of Our Lady of the Atonement Parish, noted Flores and other Texas bishops have visited Medjugorje, Croatia, where the Virgin reportedly began appearing to three visionaries in 1981, even though that diocese's bishop doesn't believe in the apparitions.
"They asked the pope, 'Should we tell people not to go?' The Holy Father told them that if it was prompting people to pray, fast, attend Reconciliation and receive the Eucharist more, let them go," Nypaver said.
Nypaver doesn't plan to stay away from the Costa Rican group, noting, "canon law says we have a right to go, whether the apparitions are authentic or not. There's nothing cultish going on; you can come and go as you please, and they don't ask for any money."
Nypaver said the Costa Rican warnings aren't related to the end of the world.
"The messages have mentioned chastisements and called people to repent of their sins, but that's pretty typical of apparitions, and it comes from the Bible."
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