- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2003

BALTIMORE The Vatican has confirmed a decision by Baltimore Cardinal William H. Keeler to stop prayer services that drew hundreds to worship with a woman who said she was receiving messages from the Virgin Mary.
Cardinal Keeler appointed three priests to investigate the assertions of Gianna Talone-Sullivan, who held prayer meetings weekly at St. Joseph Church in Emmitsburg before the archdiocese banned them in 2000. The visions were not supernatural nor miraculous and contained negative elements of apocalyptic prophecies, Cardinal Keeler's panel found.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a letter to Cardinal Keeler said Cardinal Keeler may officially announce that the visions were definitively not supernatural ("constat de non supernaturalitate"). Cardinal Ratzinger's commission was formed by the pope in 1542 to be an arbiter of Catholic teachings and to review assertions of visions, divine messages and miracles.
Cardinal Keeler reported the Vatican's confirmation in a letter April 2 to the Rev. William O'Brien, pastor of the Emmitsburg church. Cardinal Keeler told the priest the ruling should "relieve the doubts of the faithful regarding the alleged apparitions and any public dissemination of their message."
Cardinal Keeler's panel, after interviewing worshippers who attended the services and conducting a 16-month investigation, wrote in its review that with a worldwide "growing addiction to the spectacular, we think that the Church should not promote or encourage persons claiming to have extraordinary channels to God."
As many as a thousand worshippers gathered for the services held by Mrs. Talone-Sullivan on Thursday evenings from 1993 until 2000, when the archdiocese stopped them. Mrs. Talone-Sullivan, known as "the Lady of Emmitsburg," said she had the visions during the recitation of the rosary. The messages were written down, and distributed and published.
Cardinal Keeler's commission wrote that there were "impressive results" from some of the sessions. Some worshippers converted, more people celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation, and there were physical and spiritual healings, the priests said.
But the panel also noted that Mrs. Talone-Sullivan's proclamations included "apocalyptic forebodings and the prediction of catastrophic events," such as the death of all the fish in the world.
Father O'Brien referred all comment to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Mrs. Talone-Sullivan didn't return a call to her home Friday.
She has said she began having the visions while living in Scottsdale, Ariz., and moved to the Emmitsburg parish in 1993 at the direction of the Virgin Mary. She and her husband, Michael Sullivan, founded Mission of Mercy, a nonprofit medical care organization.
When the archdiocese banned her prayer services, she posted a message on the Internet: "This is a gift. Be at peace. Continue to pray. God's hand is in all of this. Watch and see."

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