LAUS, France (CNS): The Catholic Church has officially recognised 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 6000 people at the Mass.
A decree recognising 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 recognised in 1862.
In his homily, Archbishop Pontier said Benoite 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.
Numerous cures were later claimed by sick visitors who were treated with a special oil.
Bishop di Falco Leandri also relaunched a canonisation process for Benoite in 2003.