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 CNS Story:

FRANCE-APPARITIONS May-6-2008 (470 words) xxxi

Church recognizes 17th-century Marian apparitions in France

By Catholic News Service

LAUS, France (CNS) -- The Catholic Church has officially recognized 17th-century Marian apparitions to a 17-year-old peasant girl in a southern Alpine village in France.

"Three centuries have passed since Benoite Rencurel testified ... about what Christ and Mary, his mother, had revealed concerning God's love for men, as well as his infinite mercy and his appeal for conversion," Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, France, said during a May 4 Mass at the Marian basilica in the town of Laus.

"Here, as in Lourdes, as in La Salette, as in Fatima, we see Mary pursuing her mission to reveal her son and invite us to do all he tells us," he told more than 6,000 people at the Mass.

A decree recognizing the "supernatural origin of the apparitions and of facts lived and recounted by the young shepherdess" between 1664 and 1718 was read at the Mass by Bishop Jean-Michel di Falco Leandri of Gap, France.

After his appointment to Gap in late 2003, Bishop di Falco Leandri set up a panel of seven historians, theologians and psychologists to study the apparitions. In 2006 the panel's findings were sent to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which raised no objection to the recognition of the visions.

The apparitions are the first approved by the French church since apparitions to St. Bernardette Soubirous at Lourdes were officially recognized in 1862.

In his homily, Archbishop Pontier said Rencurel had first seen Mary after being guided by a strange scent near her home in Saint-Etienne d'Avancon in May 1664 and later experienced a vision of Christ bleeding on the village cross.

He added that the shepherdess had been permitted to "discern the drama of sin which injures man and disfigures humanity," as well as the mercy of God that accompanied sin.

"The greatness of Benoite lies not in her intellectual capacities, her diplomas or her fortune, or the style of her social circle, but the fact that she agreed to be chosen by the Lord to reveal the tenderness of God through Mary," the archbishop said.

"She invites everyone in a very personal way to conversion, which means to bring order and truth back into their lives, giving first place to God's love, and to take the path of humility and live truly in baptism," he said.

After four months of daily apparitions in 1664, Rencurel said Mary had asked her to build a church and house for priests. She later claimed similar visions while ministering to pilgrims and penitents as a lay Dominican tertiary in her home village. Numerous cures were later claimed by sick visitors who were treated with a special oil.

Bishop di Falco Leandri also relaunched a canonization process for Rencurel in 2003.


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