Monday, 15 May 2017

Miraculous Visions



I've read this BBC report a few times now, but have to admit I still don't understand how the Catholic Church can justify turning the children of Fatima into 'saints'.

I always understand that there had to be some evidence of a miracle before a 'saintly' person could be canonised, so maybe the answer is that standards have slipped and that the churches just keen to have something to celebrate.

The President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, claimed he saw a miraculous vision a few years ago, yet there's no sign of him being turned into a saint, so far at least.

  


Pope Francis canonises two children at Portugal's Fatima shrine


BBC Europe

Media caption - Pope Francis makes saints of Portuguese shepherd children

Pope Francis was greeted by crowds of hundreds of thousands as he made saints of two shepherd children at the Fatima shrine complex in Portugal.

"We declare the blissful Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto saints," the pontiff said to loud applause.

It is 100 years since the two - and a third child - reported seeing the Virgin Mary while tending sheep. The third is also on the way to sainthood.

Portugal boosted security and re-imposed border controls temporarily.

Some 500,000 worshippers gathered in the town of Fatima, north of Lisbon, for the ceremony on Saturday, the Vatican said in a statement.

Roman Catholic pilgrims converged on the Fatima Sanctuary from countries as far away as China, Venezuela and East Timor.

The town's local bishop first read out the request for the two "little shepherds" to be canonised before the Pope declared them both saints of the Catholic Church.

Earlier on Saturday, the official Twitter account of the Pope posted a message with reference to the Virgin Mary.

"Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness," it said.



Image copyright - EPA Image caption - Pope Francis arrives at the Fatima Sanctuary in Portugal to crowds of cheering pilgrims

Image copyright - EPA Image caption - The Pope prays at the grave of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three shepherd children

Image copyright - EPA Image caption - The pontiff exchanged caps with a child at the entrance of the Our Lady Rosario Cathedral

The pontiff also met Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa for a private meeting ahead of the ceremony. 

Plea for harmony

On Friday, Pope Francis flew into Fatima in a helicopter and travelled through the town in his "Popemobile".

At a candle-lit vigil he called for harmony between all people at the Chapel of the Apparitions and spoke of wars "tearing our world apart".

The chapel is built on the very spot where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared.

Image copyright - EPA Image caption - Devotees took part in the candle-lit procession

Two of the children - Jacinta and Francisco Marto - have been canonised for the miracles attributed to them. They died in the 1918-1919 European influenza pandemic.

The so-called three secrets of Fatima were written down by their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, who died in 2005 aged 97. The beatification process for her began in 2008.

The Church attaches great value to their visions, as Mary is believed to have revealed truths to help mankind. The Church says the first vision came on 13 May 1917.

In a video message to the people of Portugal, the Pope said he was going to present himself to Mary "and I need to feel you close, physically and spiritually, so that we are one heart and one mind".

Image copyrightAFPImage captionThe three shepherd children who had visions of the Virgin Mary in Fatima (L-R: Lucia, Francisco, Jacinta)

What are the three secrets?

They are prophecies written down by Lucia, years after the apparitions that the three said they had witnessed. She spent her adult life as a nun at a convent in Coimbra.

  • The first two secrets in Lucia's account were revealed in 1942. 
  • The first described a terrifying vision of hell, with a "great sea of fire", demons and human souls 
  • The second is interpreted as Mary's prediction that World War One would end and that World War Two would start during the papacy of Pius XI 
  • Mary also called for the "consecration" of Russia, saying: "If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church"
  • Lucia sealed the third secret in an envelope, which was handed to the Vatican in 1957 and only revealed in 2000
  • It described an angel demanding "penance!", then the Pope and other clergy climbing a mountain, only to be killed by soldiers firing bullets and arrows.
What does the Vatican say about them?

According to Pope Francis's predecessor, Benedict XVI, the visions described in the three secrets are "meant to mobilise the forces of change in the right direction".

They are not like the Bible - a text he describes as a "public revelation".

The Fatima visions are "private revelations", he writes. Their purpose is "to help live more fully" in accordance with Christ's teaching.

The late Pope John Paul II was shot by a Turkish gunman on 13 May 1981.

He believed that his survival was due to Mary's divine intervention, and that the third secret had predicted the attack on him.

John Paul donated the bullet to Fatima, and it was inserted into the crown adorning a statue of Mary 
there.

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionThese worshippers from China were among the thousands of pilgrims at the shrine

Image copyright - EPA Image caption - Many pilgrims covered the final stretch to the shrine on their hands and knees

What about Pope Francis's visit?

He follows John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who also made pilgrimages to the Fatima Sanctuary.

Security was high at the site, with Portugal deploying 6,000 police and emergency workers. Concrete blocks were placed on approach roads, to stop any terrorist "ramming" attack with a vehicle.

Only nine border crossings remained open, with systematic checks, as Portugal temporarily suspended the Schengen open borders pact.

Local accommodation over the weekend was far more expensive than usual, as hotels and residents cashed in on the papal visit.

Image copyright - REUTERS Image caption - Children dressed like the three future saints greeted the Pope when he arrived

Spitting Image (12/11/13)


Anyone looking for confirmation that Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, is nothing more that a political snake-oil salesman should consider his latest crazy antics - his claim, for example, that a 'miraculous' image of Hugo Chavez (his mentor and predecessor) appeared on the wall of an underground construction site.

Now I've posted the 'miraculous' image with this post and have to say that I can't see this as the 'spitting image' of Hugo Chavez - no matter how hard I try.

In fact it looks at best to me like one of those misshapen vegetables that attract publicity from time-to-time as loosely resemble a human face - good for a laugh perhaps, but that's all.

Yet Nicolas is keen on interpreting this as another miracle, a sign that Hugo Chavez is somehow watching over his country and giving his blessing from beyond the grave to the increasingly wacky Maduro administration - which has price inflation running at an astonishing 50%. 

Now Nicolas is a 'socialist' politician of course, but he seems more than happy to inject a little voodoo into his pitch to the voters - many of whom are deeply religious.  

Which is a load of old bollix, if you ask me - and while you would think that no socialist worth their salt would indulge in this kind of mumbo jumbo, President Maduro appears unabashed.

So, I would not be in the least surprised if he is carted off by men in white coats any day now - or perhaps even the military - because there seems little doubt that the President is losing the plot.   

Here's a report on the 'Chavez is everywhere' story from the Telegraph newspaper - which made me laugh out loud. 

 

Hugo Chavez 'appears' on construction site wall

President Nicolas Maduro claims marks on a wall are the image of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez

Stories of Chavez appearances draw mockery from the roughly half of Venezuelans who do not support Mr Maduro Photo: Reuters

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said an image of his political idol and predecessor, the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, had appeared miraculously in the wall of an underground construction site.

Since his death from cancer earlier this year, Chavez has taken on mythical proportions for supporters, and Mr Maduro has spoken of seeing his former mentor's spirit several times, including in the shape of a bird.

In the latest incident, Mr Maduro said Chavez's face briefly appeared to workers building a subway line in Caracas in the middle of the night.

"My hair stands on end just telling you about it," Mr Maduro said on state TV late, showing a photo of a white-plaster wall with marks that appear like eyes and a nose.

"Who is that face? That gaze is the gaze of the fatherland that is everywhere around us, including in inexplicable phenomena," added Mr Maduro, who won an April election to replace Chavez after his 14-year presidency.

Mr Maduro's reverence for Chavez plays well with government supporters, who treat the charismatic former leader's memory with religious adoration. The 50-year-old Maduro, who mixes Catholic beliefs with a penchant for Asian spirituality, has been a devoted personal follower of Chavez since first meeting him at a jail in 1993.

Workers took the photo with a mobile phone during the image's brief appearance, the president added.

"Just as it appeared, so it disappeared. So you see, what you say is right, Chavez is everywhere, we are Chavez, you are Chavez," Mr Maduro said during an event on live TV.

Stories of Chavez appearances draw mockery, however, from the roughly half of Venezuelans who do not support Mr Maduro. Many of them regard him as a buffoon riding on Chavez's image and causing embarrassment for Venezuela's international standing.

Both sides are gearing up for local elections in December that will be a major test of Mr Maduro's standing in the OPEC nation of 29 million people. Rampant violent crime and economic problems are the main issues taxing voters.

The president's first six months in office have been characterized by dozens of accusations ranging from assassination and coup plots to sabotage of the power grid. Critics say that is a smokescreen to cover up domestic problems.

Edited by Bonnie Malkin

Sleep Disorder (19 October 2013)



I've been taking a keen interest in what's going on in Venezuela these days as I'm fascinated by the rise to power of President Nicolas Maduro to power - because I'm convinced he's a political panhandler, a phoney or as we might say here in Scotland a complete chancer.

My reason for saying this is that the Venezuelan Maduro sees 'dead people' when it suits his purpose and one in particular - his predecessor Hugo Chavez who appeared to him in the form of a little bird at the height of the presidential election.  

But this kind of shameless behaviour has continued with the new President letting it be known that he beds down frequently in the mausoleum where Hugo Chavez's remains have been paid to rest - in the Mountain Barracks which is a 19th century fort in a run-down areas of Caracas.  

Apparently, the 'Great Leader's' tomb is housed in the ornate central atrium of the military barracks and is now guarded - around the clock - by soldiers replete with red and yellow hussars uniforms and swords, although what Hugo Chavez is being protected from is anyone's guess. 

President Maduro 'slipped out' this revelation, quite deliberately of course,  and announced portentously to his people

"I sometimes come at night. At times, many times, I sleep here. We enter at night and we stay to sleep. At night we reflect on things here."

The royal 'we' in this case is the president's entourage who join him in the mausoleum, but it's all clearly just a silly political stunt designed to reinforce the personality cult that grew up around Hugo Chavez - in the hope that some of this will rub off on Maduro.

The latest wheeze from the new President is to ask parliament to grant him special powers - so that Nicolas can govern by Presidential decree for up to three years - allegedly to tackle corruption and economic sabotage.   

Yet the language used by President Maduro in seeking these new powers is very revealing and in a three-hour speech to the Parliament  he reportedly called it a "matter of life or death" for the country's socialist revolution, before adding:

"If corruption keeps expanding and perpetuating its destructive capitalist logic, there will be no socialism here."

Now the problem with this kind of overblown rhetoric is that it's empty-headed, rabble-rousing nonsense of course - since all kinds of people around the world will tell you that 'capitalist' countries have no monopoly on political corruption.

If politics has taught me anything, it's that people with 'left' or 'right' wing views are both very  capable of behaving very badly - and that by and large it's bad for democracy and the body politic for any one person or party to remain in power for too long - because as the saying goes 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, absolutely'.