The supposed sightings of Mary are said to have taken place between 1945 and 1959 in the Netherlands.
There are undoubtedly hundreds of people around the world who currently claim to receive private revelations from God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, some angel or some saint. Supposed private messages of this kind are disseminated at great speed thanks to the internet, with different degrees of reach: sometimes local, or on other occasions, worldwide. They usually contain prophecies of catastrophe and divine wrath. In some cases, there’s a significant lack of Gospel content.
The hierarchy of the Church is usually silent in the face of these “new revelations,” and the reason for this silence is a mixture of prudence and patience. On one hand, the Church waits to see how the messages evolve, what ideas they spread, the life of the visionaries, and the spiritual and pastoral fruits; on the other, it tries to avoid giving a greater audience and more impact to these phenomena, many of which end up dying out on their own.
It’s good to remember that there are clear criteria for discernment and any eventual authoritative decision; a 1978 document of the Holy See, and a document written in the year 2000 by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger are good examples of this.
What’s new: A letter with an important message
Recently, a letter was published that clarifies the Vatican’s position regarding the devotion to the Virgin Mary “Lady of All Nations,” which even today is widespread in some places, and which we will discuss below. It’s not an official document of the Holy See—as the defenders of these supposed Marian revelations have been quick to point out—but a letter sent by the papal nuncio in Lebanon to Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, patriarch of Antioch and of the entire Maronite Church (one of the Eastern Catholic rites).
The missive, dated July 20, is the response to a request for information on the matter, and Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, the pope’s representative in Lebanon, limits himself to transmitting the firm position of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican dicastery in charge of doctrinal matters, which “has pointed out that the Notification published on May 25, 1974, available on its website, is still valid.”
In this way, two things become clear. The first is that, although the alleged revelations of Amsterdam continue to be spread in certain Catholic circles, the position of the Holy See has been clear for decades. The second: however much the defenders of certain apparitions vociferate about supposed ecclesiastical approvals after documents that reject them, the subsequent silence of the hierarchy cannot be interpreted as a tacit change of position. If there were such a change, a new document would be published. If one is not, everything remains the same. This is what happened, for instance, with the case of the false seer Vassula Ryden, object of two notifications of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Apparitions of Amsterdam: No evidence of their supernatural nature
What did the Vatican say in 1974? Because, as Nuncio Spiteri states—conveying the official position of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—the decision remains the same.
In 1956, the diocesan bishop of Haarlem, after careful study of the case, concluded that he “found no evidence of the supernatural nature of the apparitions” and, therefore, he “prohibited public veneration of the picture of ‘Our Lady of All Nations’ and the spreading of writings which attributed a supernatural origin to these apparitions and revelations.” This decision was confirmed in 1957, when it was endorsed by the Vatican. This endorsement was repeated in 1972 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In case there were any doubts, in 1974, having studied the subject in depth in repeated investigations, the dicastery in charge of the integrity of the Catholic faith published the definitive communiqué, stating that it “confirms by the present notification the judgment already expressed by the competent ecclesiastical authority,” referring to the decisions made by the Dutch bishop. And, consequently, it invited “priests and laity to discontinue all forms of propaganda with regard to the alleged apparitions and revelations of ‘Our Lady of All Nations.’”
Furthermore, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recommended Marian devotion as it is lived out in the whole of Christian spirituality by believers, exhorting “all, moreover, to express their devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, Queen of the Universe by forms of piety which are recognized and recommended by the Church,” referring specifically to what Pope Pius XII indicated in his encyclical letter Ad Caeli Reginam (1954).
What were the “apparitions” in question?
A Dutch woman named Isje Johanna Peerdeman (1905-1996) claimed to have witnessed up to 56 apparitions of the Virgin Mary, who allegedly presented herself to Peerdeman under a new title: “Our Lady of All Nations.” These supernatural experiences were supposed have taken place between 1945 and 1959, although the alleged visionary said that it all began on October 13, 1917 (precisely the day of the last apparition at Fatima), with the brief visit of “a luminous woman.”
In the messages supposedly communicated by the Virgin to Peerdeman there are many “prophecies” (or more accurately, predictions) about historical, social, and political events, with a clearly catastrophic emphasis, very appropriate for those turbulent decades of the 20th century. The Mother of God supposedly asked that a specific prayer be prayed—“you do not know how great and important this prayer is before God”—and that the dogma of her role as co-redeemer in the History of Salvation be proclaimed.
What’s the takeaway?
A simple search on the internet offers us hundreds of pages that defend the veracity of the apparitions of Amsterdam, going so far as to affirm that, despite its initial skepticism, the Catholic Church ended up recognizing the supernatural character of the revelations received by Peerdeman.
They refer to the funeral of the alleged visionary, presided over by the then-bishop of Haarlem, and to the ecclesiastical approval of the devotion in 2002 by another successor in the same episcopal see. However, as we have seen in detail, the Roman See has made a clear statement, which supersedes the contradictory decisions of the Dutch prelates.
It is more and more common that the defenders of private revelations—some arriving at sectarianism and fanaticism, attitudes that say nothing in favor of the positively supernatural nature of the cases, but rather against it—transmit ambiguous statements, half-truths, and even direct lies in a peculiar and perverse “apostolate” for which the end always justifies the means. For this reason, we must be alert and know what the Church has said.
Since in the majority of cases there have been no official pronouncements by the hierarchy, we must have recourse to the general principles of Catholic teaching on the revelation of God, open to all peoples and individuals, whose full and definitive manifestation is the person of Jesus Christ. Is it important to know the words of the Virgin Mary? Yes, of course. And these words are clear in the Gospel: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).