Bishop of Fatima during the time of the apparitions in Garabandal
D. João Pereira Venâncio
Monsignor João Pereira Venâncio, Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Portugal, his name will always be associated with his connection with Fatima and Garabandal. Bishop D. João Pereira Venancio was well known for his deep piety. He often spoke to Sister Lucy, the seer of Fatima's Marian apparitions, and also visited Conchita, the chief seer of Garabandal's apparitions.
D. João Venâncio, Bispo de Fátima
D. João Venâncio, Papa Paulo VI e irmã Lúcia
D. João Venâncio e Conchita González, vidente de Garabandal
Father Alfred Combe, head of the Garabandal movement in France, reports his meeting with Bishop D.Venancius.
So says Fr Combe:
On 21 July 1983, while accompanying a group of pilgrims from Saint-Etienne, France, to Fatima, I had the joy of being welcomed by Bishop D.Venantius and having had a long and private conversation with him. Now I can post this interview, but there are things I want to mention before:
1. The first time I was with this holy bishop was in Leiria in 1961.
2. Knew that on two trips he made to the United States, he twice visited Conchita, who is the main seer of Garabandal. This visit took place in New York, where Conchita has lived since she was married in 1973. These visits were not casual since Conchita was well known to her sister, Lucia de Fatima.
3. An important detail; I had a ring in my right hand that the great apostle of Garabandal, Joey Lomangino, gave me in 1977 when I visited New York. He had also given the same gift to Conchita and to various priests and lay people, all "workers" of the Holy Mother, as a sign of our "communion and collaboration in spreading the message of Our Lady.
The conversation with Bishop D.Venantius went like this:
P. Combe: Excellency, I am very grateful to welcome you to this private audience. This is our second date.
Bishop Venancio: Dear Father, my memory is missing. Please help me to remember.
P. Combe: The first meeting with your Excellency was in 1961. At that time, I came from France to beg your generosity to obtain a statue of Our Lady of Fatima for a large French-Portuguese event, which I was organizing in the district. de Lyon, an act that had great resonance throughout the region as it brought together over 10,000 people.
D. Venancio: I remember perfectly. I gave him a statue with a special blessing, as it was one of four that made the "peace course" after World War II. That day I sent the Rector of the great Basilica of Fatima the order to give her the statue of Our Lady. When he returned to Fatima, he told me of the magnificent festive program that impressed him, as well as the quality of the religious program.
P. Combe: But this whole program, Your Excellency, was for God's Grace and your goodwill. Did you know that this image of Our Lady of Fatima brought many spiritual blessings? But today she is venerated in my private chapel. I also have a photograph of a young woman you visited in New York. She is someone whom Sister Lucy also knows.
D. Venancio: At Conchita de Garabandal's house .... Yes, I went to visit Conchita in New York. I was delighted with the hours I spent at home with your family. I'll tell you something, she had the kind act of offering me the ring she wore on her finger, just as she has, and she gave the ring saying to me:
"Excellency, I want to give you this ring until you die."
I accepted him and always carry him by my pastoral ring. As you can imagine, this has led to endless speculation, not very discreet for sure, on the part of some of my brother bishops. I wore this ring until this year, 1983, but as I am very old and wanted this ring to be returned to its owner before my death, I decided to send the ring to Conchita a few weeks ago with a letter of thanks and with my dearest blessing.
P. Combe: Excellency, what you said to me now was a great revelation to me. Thank you for everything you shared with me.
Bishop Venancio: My dear priest, are you the French priest who works to spread the message of Our Lady of Carmel of Garabandal of Spain?
Q. Combe: Yes, Your Excellency, and that is why I have the joy of meeting you here today.
Then, when something unexpected happened, something that made me so astonished that it is still hard for me to report, I must tell him simply: Bishop João Pereira Venâncio got up and knelt at my feet. Then he took my hands in his own and looking me straight in my eyes said to me:
"Blessed are you and thank you dear Father for the wonderful apostolic work you are doing for Our Lady of Carmel of Garabandal."
Then Mr. Bishop sat opposite me.
Fr Combe: I am all confused by your gesture, Bishop, but very grateful for your words, not for me but for Garabandal's message.
D. Venancio: This message given by the Blessed Virgin in Garabandal is the same message she gave in Fatima, but updated for our times.
P. Combe: I have always thought the same, Your Excellency, but you emphasize the word "updated." Would you please explain?
D. Venancio: It's very simple. In 1917, at Fatima, the Virgin Mary did not warn us about the crisis that the Church is suffering today, and which hurts us so much; crisis of doctrine, catechism, morals, liturgy, discipline, priesthood, religious life, etc., and as a result the great confusion of the faithful. Because? Because there was no reason then to warn us of these dangers in 1917. At that time the situation was normal and some things were still perfect. Do you remember what the Eucharistic piety, the Marian devotion, the Christian sense of sin, the frequent visit and use of the Sacrament of Penance, the liturgy, and fidelity to the Pope as Peter's successor, were at that time? At Garabandal in 1961 the situation was already different. We did not see the great dangers ahead, but the Blessed Virgin saw them. And because she is Mother and Prophet, she came to this small Spanish village to explicitly warn us and call us again to prayer, sacrifice, penance and conversion. In other words, in Garabandal, she updated her Message of Fatima for today's church.
P.Combe: Conchita de Garabandal often said that the message of Our Lady of Carmel was a "message of salvation," so we could add, "message of salvation for our time."
D. Venancio: That is obvious to me.
Father Combe: What you are saying about the crisis of the Church and the resulting confusion in the very heart of the Church reminds me of something that once said to me a great theologian, Father Lucio Rodrigo, Rector Emeritus of the former University of Comillas in the diocese of Santander. After Garabandal's apparitions around 1967, I met this Jesuit and made great friends. One day he said to me:
"In Garabandal, the Blessed Virgin prophesied to us about the priestly crisis and the great confusion of the Church. These prophecies are now a truth. All with a vision and a gravity that no one in that small village could ever think would ever happen, because not even the theologians, with all their vast knowledge, have the slightest suspicion. "
And this eminent theologian added:
"To me, that alone is more than sufficient proof that Garabandal's message was of supernatural origin."
D. Venancio: This is a reliable and illuminating reason, even if Garabandal does not lack other credibility evidence as you well know. Now tell me Father, have you had any recent news about Conchita and your lifemates? Can you tell me, in your opinion, how the Bishop of Santander and Rome thinks about Garabandal?
P. Combe: At this moment I have had little news about this.
And that was how our conversation ended.
P. Combe: Thank you, Excellency, for providing me with this interview. I will keep your words in my heart as a source of joy and peace. But before I leave I want to ask you one last favor. May you bless me and my group of French pilgrims.
Venenius: With all my heart. First to you and then to your group.
P. Combe: On my knees, I received your blessing, and then thanked you.
D. Venancio: The blessing to your group will be in my name. I give you special permission and allow you to give my episcopal blessing to your group on my behalf. And in return I want to receive yours.
P. Combe: I refused, all confused; but at the insistence of the Bishop, who was already kneeling before me, I came to him and said to him with great emotion, "I bless you with all my heart to this great and holy Bishop of Fatima."
What a memorable interview!
I want to convey before God that all the details I report here are true. I dedicate all this to all the "workers" of Our Lady of Carmel so that they may be encouraged and also for all the bishops and priests of the Church.
Father Alfred Combe, France. July 21, 1983