PASTORAL INSTRUCTION ON THE APPARITIONS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN IN FINCA BETANIA
Archbishop Pio Bello Ricardo
A Letter by Archbishop Pio Bello Ricardo, Bishop of Los Teques

This year we are celebrating as a Marian year due to the happy initiative of Our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, is an appropriate occasion to emit the present Pastoral Instruction on the apparition of Our Blessed Virgin Mary in Finca Betania.

Pio Bello Ricardo Bishop of Los Teques Los Teques, November 21st of 1987

Description Of The Events

Finca Betania is a farm located at twelve kilometers from the town of Cua, on the left side of the road which unites this town, that belongs to the geographical region of the Valleys of the Tuy river, and the village of San Casimiro in the State of Aragua. Finca Betania belongs therefore to the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, and to this Diocese of Los Teques in the District of Urdaneta which belongs to the State of Miranda. In this farm, there is a brook that runs down the slope of a hill that is near the old and modest farm house. At the foot of the hill the brook forms a small cascade. Along the course of the brook the dense vegetation forms a tunnel. The apparitions have taken place in this vegetal tunnel.

The first apparition took place on March 25th of 1976. This apparition was seen only by one person, Mrs. Maria Esperanza Medrano de Bianchini; though others, approximately eighty, present that same day saw something like a cloud coming out of the hill, light phenomena and movement of the sun. This same person, Mrs. Bianchini, continued having apparitions in the same place during 1976 and the next two years. Besides her, very few people have declared to have seen the apparition during that period; yet, I received testimonies from people who had witnessed phenomena as: fog that comes away from the hill, brilliant light, intense fragrance of flowers, songs of an invisible choir, playing of lights and movements of the sun, etc.

A pious and religious group began developing a movement of piety and religious formation, centered in Finca Betania. They attended Betania in small groups to pray and meditate especially on weekends and religious holidays. The Bishop of the Diocese at that time, Monsignor Juan Jose Bernal, allowed some liturgical acts at the place. He administered sacraments himself specially in the favor of peasants of the neighboring small villages. During this period no formal ecclesiastical investigation took place concerning the previous events, the apparitions and occurrences.

This situation limited to a small group of people, changed in the year of 1984. On Sunday, March 25th of 1984, approximately 150 people got together in Finca Betania in order to attend a field mass at noon. After this liturgical act took place in the old sugar mill, the attendants moved to the porch of the farm house in order to have lunch and rest. Meanwhile some children were playing in the leveled area by the cascade. Suddenly, they saw Our Lady over the cascade. It was a very short apparition. They ran immediately to tell the others who were 150 meters away.

They all hurried to the place of the apparition. They were talking about what had happened when the Virgin appeared again and all the people who were present were able to see Her. During that same afternoon She appeared seven times, each time for 5 to 10 minutes, except for the last time, at dusk, when She appeared for approximately half an hour. Naturally, the news was spread among relatives and friends of the people that were present that day. The number of people coming to Finca Betania has been increasing especially on weekends. There has been no predictable chronology of the continuing apparitions though they have more frequently occurred on Saturdays, Sundays, and on Our Blessed Lady's holidays. The apparitions were numerous during the years of 1984, 1985. During the years of 1986 and 1987, less apparitions occurred.

Ecclesiastical Investigation

That same week which began Sunday, March 25th of 1984 the first witnesses spontaneously came to the Diocesan Curia in order to present to me their written testimonies and an oral account of the events. I received them and questioned them with kindness and broadmindedness, though I had an interior attitude of doubt and skepticism as it is normal for anyone who has had a theological and psychological formation and knowledge of the history of the Church. Even though, due to the quality of the informants and the information they were presenting, I judged the case had to be seriously investigated. To this end I convoked all the witnesses and protagonists; not an easy task, as many of them lived in different cities and out of the jurisdiction of the Diocese.

Due to the circumstances of number and dispersion of the witnesses and the continuing of the phenomena, I decided to undertake the investigation personally. This made it easier to make appointments with the possible informants. Something that would have been very difficult to do if I had given this task to a commission. This option, obviously obliged me to dedicate a lot of time to this business, around four hundred to five hundred hours; but I could calmly question approximately two hundred protagonists and collect, study and file 381 declarations. Some were collective declarations. The total number of people that signed these declarations was 490.

In order to examine this kind of phenomena I followed the classical criteria of the Church. I was interested in determining the credibility of the witnesses, their conditions as human beings, as Christians, their sincerity, their common sense, their capacity to reason, their sense of criticism, and their emotional balance. Once the credibility of the witness was established, I tried to decide how much the witness could be influenced by collective or personal suggestion.

I examined the spiritual and/or psychological effects on the people, as well as the behavior of the people attending the site of the apparitions and especially the characteristics of the group that since the first apparition began developing into a spiritual movement. During my "ad limina" visit in September of 1984 I was received at the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I left there a provisional report of the events and was given a document for my private use which was elaborated by the Sacred Congregation in 1978, with the rules and procedures I needed to follow in order to judge the supposed apparitions or revelations. With satisfaction I could verify that the investigation I had done up to that moment fitted with the criteria and procedures pointed out in that document. Since then, I certainly took them as my working guide.

Characteristics Of The Apparitions Identification

In other apparitions of Our Blessed Virgin Her figure could be easily identified for She always presented Herself in the same way, same features, same clothing; whose replica was copied on statues and paintings. In the present case, Our Lady has presented Herself in different ways, therefore the descriptions vary but are always related to the different Marian devotions; She is most commonly seen as "Our Lady of Lourdes", (because she is seen with a white dress and blue waistband, some say that she extends her arms out as welcoming or saluting, and with a veil through which you can see Her hair) or as "Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal" (probably for the position of Her arms and the rays of light coming out of Her hands).

Though these descriptions are the most common, there are other descriptions of the way She has presented Herself that are similar to the way She has appeared in other places. People have interpreted this circumstance as a teaching from Our Lady, as if She wanted to point out that even though She has different titles for Her different apparitions, She is only one and unique. Here, since Her first apparition She presented Herself as Reconciler of Nations and this is the title or devotion through which She is known and venerated in Betania.

Messages

Very few people have declared they have had any kind of oral communication with Our Lady or have received any kind of teachings, messages or advice. Generally in all the interrogations or declarations people have only declared to have seen her. According to the communications that have been received during the apparitions, Our Lady refers to:
The Renewal Of Faith, as specially urgent in a world where so many deny God or despise the supernatural or live their lives setting aside God and spirituality.
Deepening In Faith, through reading and meditating the word of God in Sacred Scriptures.
Conversion from sin to all full Christian life.
Apostolic Commitment, as a consequence of living a renewed and profound faith.
Call To Prayer as communication with God and specifically for the Church, for priests, for religious vocations, for the conversion of sinners, for peace in the world and for the impending risks that threaten humanity.
Frequency Of Sacraments, specially the sacrament of reconciliation and Holy Communion.
Solidarity, as a call to charity, specially with those in need, the poor, the abandoned, the sick; insisting on a brotherly coexistence and participation in the sense that each one should share with others all he has.

Number Of Visionaries

In other cases the apparitions have been seen by very few privileged people. In this case the number of visionaries since the 25th of March of 1984 is very numerous. That day in particular more than 100 people saw the seven apparitions: at least 108 testified that same day with their written signatures. From that day on the visionaries multiplied. It has been common that in a group of people, only some can see the apparition. The 25th of March of 1984 was an exception to this. It has also been common for some people who on some occasions saw the apparition, present during others, didn't have this privilege. Considering the oral and written testimonies, the information received, the fact that people present in the apparitions are dispersed in different cities and that it is very difficult to summon them all; I estimate that this moment five hundred to one thousand people have seen the apparitions. (1987)

Quality Of People

What has been usual in the apparitions of Our Blessed Virgin is that those privileged with the apparition besides being very few, were poor, not educated and generally children or very young people. In this case, there are of course; poor, not educated, but there are also many middle class professional people as: Doctors, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Engineers and Lawyers. There are also numerous college students from the different Universities in Caracas. There are children and adults, teenagers and elderly people, nuns, although the great majority are lay people.

Chronology

As I pointed out before, the apparitions have not had a predictable or announced chronology, nor an established frequency. Though generally they have taken place on Saturdays, Sundays or on liturgical Marian Holidays, they have also taken place unexpectedly during the other days of the week.

Expectancy

In relation to the chronology; on numerous occasions, the expectations of the people who came to the place on the belief that because it was a day of Marian Holiday they would see the apparition, were frustrated. On the other hand apparitions have taken place unexpectedly as on 1984, day in which the main purpose was to celebrate a field mass on the farm, and to enjoy a nice day on the margins of a beautiful river and a nice rural landscape. In numerous declarations, many people have mentioned as a relevant fact that their experience was a totally unexpected surprise. The cases of people who have seen the apparition against all expectancy have not been few, nor the number of people who have gone to Betania for simple curiosity, on a weekend picnic, or with great skepticism or scorn, and have seen the apparition. I have also seen the cases of people who attended the place because they had to take a relative or accompany a friend or a member of his family but with no religious faith and have see the apparition which transformed them.

Sense Of Reality

It is classical in other apparitions for the visionaries to fall in the psychological state of mystical trance or ecstasy. During the interviews and the examination of the written declarations, I tried to determine if there was any loss of the sense of reality during the apparitions. I didn't find this phenomenon. Of course, the visionaries get very excited; but with the exception of very few that faint as a consequence of the emotion, most of them keep their sense of reality during the apparition: they make comments and compare their appreciations of what they are seeing, they even try to find natural explanations (as reflections of light, tricks, suggestion, etc), until they are convinced that these arguments do not explain the realism of their vision. At the most, some indicate they have become absorbed in thought during the apparition. This characteristic made my investigation easier because I could do without the technical examination of the supernatural character or purely psychological of the state of ecstasy, limiting my survey to the determination of the credibility of the witness and the value of the testimony.

Concomitant Phenomena

Along the course of the apparitions, phenomena that were present during the first three years of the apparitions are: fog that seems to come out from the trees at the hill; intense luminosity that brightens the hill; profusion of flowers that cover it, especially roses; invisible choirs; the water of the cascade acquiring the perfume of roses; movements of light and movement of the sun, etc. These phenomena have taken place before and after the apparitions, and sometimes without them. A great number of witnesses have seen these phenomena without seeing the apparition.

General Environment

I could verify that the reunions in Finca Betania are acceptable from the religious point of view. They are serious gatherings, centered in the prayer of the Rosary, the Stages of the Cross and other prayers and sacred songs. The public is respectful and orderly except for the normal playfulness of children. There have been cases of exaggerated emotionality and hysteric reactions, but in general the environment has been moderately balanced. There has been no commercialization. No sales of religious objects. No stands for refreshments nor food, therefore people that come have to bring the necessary equipment for the day.

Effects

The effects have been good and some excellent. Those who assist receive a strong injection of faith and spirituality. People who never prayed are getting used to praying the Rosary. People who didn't attend the Church now do so regularly, go to Confession and Communion. There have been remarkable conversions. It has been comforting to hear confessions at the place. I have noticed that all the people interviewed had a good disposition to what the Church should decide officially and accept that the Church would have the last word on the matter. All of them have experienced an interior change towards God and towards living a more Christian life.

Declaration And Judgement

Since the beginning of my investigation I realized this was not another case of craftiness, collective suggestion or a promotion on the interests of a person or of a group of people, but that I was dealing with something serious that had to be investigated carefully. Relatively soon in the course of my investigation I acquired the certainty that the character of the phenomenon was supernatural. Still, I decided to delay any explicit declaration, following the prudent praxis of the Church in these matters, until I could enlighten my appreciation with the following declarations, measure the spiritual effects achieved and finish the critical following of the religious movement produced by the events. I judge the appropriate time has come to make my judgement on the events public.

In consequence, after studying with determination the apparitions of our Blessed Virgin Mary in Finca Betania and after assiduously asking our Lord for spiritual discernment: I declare that to my judgement these apparitions are authentic and of a supernatural character. Therefore, I approve officially that the place where the apparitions have taken place should be considered as sacred, as a site for pilgrimages, as a place for prayer, meditation and worship; where all liturgical acts can be celebrated especially the Mass and the administration of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion, always according to the laws of the Church and the rules of the Diocese for a Conjoint Pastoral guidance.

Sense And Evaluation Of This Declaration Competence

It is the competence of the Diocesan Bishop to watch and intervene in order to judge, especially in the cases of supposed apparitions or revelations that take place in his Diocese. This competence is derived from the hierarchical institution of the Church and it has been expressly declared by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when naming the rules that must be observed in such cases.

Sense

As I will mention in a later paragraph this declaration does not have the magisterial value that it would have if it would refer to the contents of faith from the public revelation God has given to His Church through the Sacred Scriptures and the Apostolic Tradition. These contents are of divine faith and when being explained or declared by a Magisterial authority are of ecclesiastical faith: those who don't accept them sin against faith rebelling against God and the Church.

The present case is a religious event that is admitted by human faith founded on the testimonies of witnesses and on my own testimony, this last one obviously specially authorized by the condition of pastoral guidance that belongs to a Bishop. Not to admit it, does not constitute a sin against faith. Still, anyone who acts in such a non-believing manner must, examine his underlying motivations: is it prudence or a reasonable sense of criticism, is it a biased attitude of systematic negativism before all the supernatural? An attitude that is the consequence of a naturalistic and scientific mentality of those who do not admit things that are not the result of a reasoning approach, mathematical calculations or laboratory experiences. The skeptic attitude of those who do not admit the possibility that God can communicate freely with His creatures and make visible the invisible realities.

Reach

With these statements I do not intend to affirm that all and each one of the apparitions that have taken place in Finca Betania are authentic. As happens in similar circumstances, here there also have been cases of simple hallucinations incited by expectation, suggestion, emotionality and even psychological unbalance. Worthwhile mentioning at this point is the fact that during the investigation of the apparition of Our Blessed Virgin in Lourdes, apparition repeatedly studied and acknowledged, pseudo-visionaries were detected and discharged. In my investigation in the case of Finca Betania, I have also found a few cases in which I was inclined to believe and interpret as fantasies and discharge them as not valid testimonies. I have judged therefore, that the presence of these cases, on one side expected, didn't lessen the validity of the appreciable volume of the numerous testimonies to which I do grant credibility.

Public Revelation And Private Revelation

Faith is based upon Revelation. Throughout the years it was God's will to communicate with humanity through special people privileged by Him to this effect. In order to preserve the multiple truths taught in this way, He brought up writers who under the motion of divine inspiration wrote the Sacred Scriptures. This is therefore the fountain from which we can drink the water that sprang from the spring of Revelation. At the end of this process of salvation, God the Father sent us His Son, Jesus Christ, the incarnated Word. In Him the divine Revelation culminates and is made perfect. Jesus Christ, in His times, entrusted the Apostles as His authorized witnesses, to spread the total content of the Revelation. This testimony was gathered and kept in the books that constitute the New Testament and by His fellow contemporaries in what is named the "Apostolic Tradition".

The contents of the Sacred Scriptures and the Apostolic Tradition contain God's Revelation and we must accept them with the same faith we worship God Himself. This is what it means in theology when it is said that these contents are "of divine faith". On the other hand, Jesus Christ, when He founded the Church, appointed the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, as the authorized Magisterium. Doing this He entrusted them the contents of Revelation in order to keep and give them the authorized interpretation.

When the Magisterium of the Church intervenes in the field of Revelation to interpret, specify, explain it, etc.; being instituted by Jesus Christ and given the virtue of the Holy spirit, it has the charisma of magisterial authority; therefore its intervention should be accepted by all faithful Christians as the content of Faith and its rejection is a sin against Faith. The contents in this way taught by the Magisterium are known in theological terms as of "catholic" or "ecclesiastical faith". The divine Revelation culminates in Jesus Christ. As said in the II Vatican Council: "He with His presence and manifestation, with His words and actions, signs and miracles, above all with His death and glorious resurrection, with the coming of the Spirit of truth; completes all the Revelation and confirms it as a divine testimony..., therefore another public revelation should not be expected before the glorious manifestation of Jesus Christ Our Lord" (Dei Verbum 4).

In relation with the interpretation of the Revelation the Council affirms: "Tradition and Scriptures constitute the sacred depository of God's word trusted to the Church. The job of interpreting accurately the word of God, oral or written, has been given only to the Magisterium of the Church, which exercises it in the name of Jesus Christ" (Dei Verbum 10). The previous explanation does not imply that since the death of the last Apostle, the communication of God with man ceased, or that after Jesus Christ all revelations are impossible. That would contradict the history of the Church in which yes, there are many cases of pseudo-visionaries and false revelations, but there are also numerous visionaries, apparitions and revelations that fulfil the conditions that the theological critique requires as signs of authenticity.

It implies on the contrary, an important difference. The Revelation contained in the Sacred Scriptures and in the Apostolic Tradition has, we can say, an institutional character. It is in this sense when theology refers to it as "public" Revelation. Any other revelation even though its purpose is the spiritual well-being of the community, will be referred to as "private" revelation. What Jesus Christ entrusted to the Magisterium of the Church was the "public" Revelation and as I indicated before, when the Church intervenes, it is an obligation for the faithful to accept Its decisions as of "Catholic" or "ecclesiastical faith".

On the other hand, when the Church intervenes in "private" revelations, It does so in order to determine its compatibility with the "public" Revelations. As a consequence, if It finds that the "private" revelation contradicts the "public" Revelation It declares it false, as God cannot contradict Himself. If It finds agreement in both It allows the "private' revelations to be admitted. Generally the Church does not go further than this, It does not proceed to make an assertive declaration on the supernatural character of the "private" revelations. Still, though less frequent, on finding sufficient reasons that give credit to the supernatural character of a "private' revelation, the Church can declare it as such. By doing it, It does not oblige the faithful to admit this declaration as of "catholic or ecclesiastical faith" but guides them prudently so that they can admit it by human faith, with the warrant of a serious investigation and the testimony of an ecclesiastical authority which emits the declaration. This is the case of this document. If anyone is willing to study the apparition in Finca Betania to form his own personal judgement I would be glad to furnish all the documentation referring to it. To this effect, I have taken the precaution of photocopying all the declarations in order to preserve the originals as I consider them as irreplaceable for their historical value.

Apparitions And Visions

Apparitions and visions can be referred to, as constants in the history of salvation. Through them God gives the visionary, the visible perception of invisible realities, as spiritual beings, or of visible realities but of another time and place. Visions and apparitions include some kind of message or teaching, generally oral. This is what is ordinarily called "private revelation". Although it is possible for this kind of revelation to take place without an apparition or vision. Of course, an authentic vision or apparition, though without a message, is a revelation itself, while proving the existence of the supernatural by making visible invisible realities.

To admit or not to admit the possibility of visions and apparitions, depends on one's position concerning the possibility that realities, which are beyond the material field of positive methods of investigation, could exist and be perceived. Who believes in God also admits that God can communicate with the beings He created. This possibility of course, does not guarantee that a concrete phenomenon is a communication with God. It is necessary to critically analyze each phenomenon in order to guarantee it as a supernatural occurrence. The existing difficulties to reach this analysis is not cause to say they are not valid, thus reject their authenticity "a priori" or to adopt a systematically negative or skeptical attitude.

The apparitions and visions related in the Sacred Scriptures are numerous both in the Old and New Testament. Hence, they are confirmed in their supernatural authenticity by divine inspiration and by the Magisterium of the Church. From the Church's patristic origins to our days there have been numerous apparitions which have turned the history of the Church. These apparitions form part of the charismatic dimension of the Church which is conjugated with Its ministerial dimension, though we have to mention that the ministerial dimension is a charisma in itself.

As the II Vatican Council expresses in its constitution "Lumen Gentium", N. 12: "The Holy Spirit not only sanctifies, guides the nation of God through the sacraments and ministry, and adorns it with Its virtues; but also distributes grace, even special grace, among the faithful of any kind or condition, distributing Its gifts to each one as It pleases (1 Cor 12, 11), with which It enables them capable and ready to comply to diverse works and duties that are necessary for the renovation and greater edification of the Church". And as for the extraordinary gifts, It observes: "The judgement over the authenticity and over their reasonable exercise belongs to those who have authority in the Church, those who have the responsibility above all, not to suffocate the Spirit but to test it all and keep what is good (cfr Tes 5, 12 y 19, 21)".

The above text gives us an insight to understand the meaning that visions, apparitions and private revelations have in the life of the Church. They belong to Its charismatic dimension, and constitute a demonstration that Christ is present among us until the consummation of the centuries (Cfr Mat 28, 20), and that the Holy Spirit, soul of the Church, acts on It and gives It life. In some cases to enlighten and to guide a specific person; in others to promote a certain style of spirituality or a certain form of pastoral action; or to renew and up to date evangelic lines that routine has made ineffective, or inconsequence has segregated; or towards the solution of a crisis or the acceptance of a historical challenge. As Pope Pius XII wrote in his encyclical "Mystici Corporis": "Christ always oversees His Immaculate wife (His Church) exiled in this world, with special love, and when seeing It in danger, He Himself or through the angels or through Her to whom we implore as Succor of the Christians and through the heavenly advocates; delivers It from the waves of the storm, and calming the sea, He comforts It with that peace that goes beyond all senses." In this frame of mind we can understand the providential purpose the apparitions of Our Lady have, since the day in 1830 in Rue du Bac, Paris, and all the following apparitions up to our days. It is typical of this last century and half for man to believe he is self-sufficient, that he is able to fulfill himself and solve all his problems through science, technology, social and political experiments, human creativity; without the help of God, as well as denying all interference of transcendental and supernatural factors in human life.

Therefore, the Blessed Virgin, who advances in the pilgrimage of faith loyally accompanied Her Son even to the Cross (Lumen Gentium 56), who preceded the Church being "an example for the Church in faith, charity and of perfect unity with Christ" (Lumen Gentium 63), and that as Mother of Christ is united in a special way to the Church the Lord constituted as His Body" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater 5): She accompanies the Church in Its pilgrimage through this period of faith and atheism "in which Our Blessed Virgin Mary continues to precede the Nation of God (Redemptoris Mater 6), and "continues being the Star of the Seas for all those who persevere in the path of faith" (ibid 6). In this way, we can conclude that God wanted Mary, our Mother in faith, who kept loyally the teachings of the divine mysteries (Cfr Luc 2, 19 y 21), and whose visit to Elizabeth was the first evangelization on the mystery of Christ (Cfr Luc 1, 39-45); to visit the Church in these later times as evangelizer in a period when faith is in crisis.

Reconciler Of Nations

When Our Blessed Virgin appeared at Finca Betania She presented Herself as "Reconciler of Nations". In the next paragraphs I'll be giving clues to understand the theological meaning of this title. Our Lady, Her person, Her priorities, activities are essentially centered in Christ, have sense in Christ and for Christ. Jesus Christ is our only Redeemer and Mediator, as categorically affirms Saint Paul: "There is only one God and only one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, also a man, who submitted Himself as rescue for all" (1 Tim 2, 5-6). Even though, "the only mediation of our Redeemer does not exclude, but raises in His creatures, diverse types of cooperation that come from the only source" (Lumen Gentium 62).

Pope John Paul II applies this doctrine to Our Blessed Virgin: "The teachings of the II Vatican Council present the truth about the mediation of Mary as a participation of this only source that is the mediation of Christ Himself" (Redemptoris Mater 38). Being Mother of Christ, Mary is Mother of the Church that is Body of Christ; but also deserves this title for Her actions on behalf of the Church: "Conceiving Christ, gestating Him, feeding Him, presenting Him to the Father at the temple, suffering when Her Son was dying on the Cross; She cooperated in a very singular way with the masterpiece of Our Savior with obedience, faith, hope and fervish charity, for the purpose of restoring the supernatural life of the souls." (Lumen Gentium 61).

The Blessed Virgin is therefore collaborator of Christ and His plan for Redemption. And this cooperation didn't end on the Cross, She was given by Her Son as Mother of the newborn Church "- there is your Mother-..." Her maternity remains in the Church as a maternal mediation" (Redemptoris Mater 40). "Mary's maternity endures unceasingly in the economy of the grace... until the perpetual consummation of all the chosen" (Lumen Gentium 62). On the other hand, Redemption can also be proposed as Reconciliation of men with God and of men within themselves. Saint Paul densely expresses it in his letters to the Romans and Ephesians: "We have been

reconciled with God through the death of His Son" (Rom 5, 10). "He is our peace, from two nations He made one, demolishing the wall that opposed them... to create in Himself, from two, one new man, making peace... giving death to enmity in Himself (Ef 2, 14-16).

Being Our Blessed Virgin collaborator in the plan of Redemption, She must logically be considered as collaborator in this Reconciliation. This is the position that is understood and proclaimed in the title of "Reconciler" or "Mother of Reconciliation". This condition of collaborator in Reconciliation is not limited to Jesus' life on earth but is prolonged in the history of the Church; this idea is implied in Saint Luke's description of the Pentecost.

The effusion of the Holy Spirit takes place as a consequence of the reconciliation of men with God and produces reconciliation of men among themselves, symbolized in the rupture of the obstacle of comprehension with the give of tongues (Act 2, 5-12). Specially in this circumstances the Virgin is singularly mentioned as collaborating with Her prayers. This Cooperation is prolonged indefinitely as I mentioned in a previous text: "This maternity of Mary (-as mediator-) in the economy of the grace endures unceasingly... until the perpetual consummation of those chosen" (Lumen Gentium 62).

Now, if there is something characteristic of this last century and half it is violence, hatred and fighting of people and groups, of social classes and nations, division of hearts and deeds, wars. Initiatives towards peace and union have risen; and organisms and actions have been planned. But these plans have been ineffective because they only touch the surface of human life, and they don't reach the deep dimension of hearts and souls, there where the seed of hatred and division germinated as an effect of the original sin. In the midst of the Church, an ecumenical movement has risen, for the purpose of restoring the union of the believers in Christ. Still, the same opposing movements that have been raised in the course of centuries continue to be the wall for contraposition for this ecumenical movement. Specially in this world and in the Church Our Blessed Virgin appears as Reconciler Of Nations insisting on a spirit of solidarity and mutual fraternal participation. A title that springs from the theology of Mary's cooperation in Redemption and Reconciliation and with a message of great sense of actuality.


Conclusion

Ending this Pastoral Instruction I thank the Lord for He has given our Diocese and our Country the privilege of the visit of Our Blessed Virgin; for in this period of our ecclesiastical history marked with a new evangelization, She encourages us to a renewal and deepening in faith, and to a projection of that faith into an integral conversion, in prayer and apostolic commitment; because in this divided world She has come as Reconciler Of Nations. Through the visit of Our Mother, may the Lord grant us the effusion of His Spirit He granted Elizabeth when Our Lady visited her. And if on that occasion Our Lady proclaimed: "from now on all generations shall call Me blessed because the Almighty has done wonders in Me" (Luc 1, 48-49); may Her intercession do wonders in the devotees piously attending the place She has chosen to manifest Herself. Los Teques, November 21st of 1987. Pio Bello Ricardo Bishop of Los Teques


Translation by: Movimiento Espiritual Betania (Betania Spiritual Movement)


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