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Empowering and Inspiring Women Globally- Reparation, A Spiritual Journey 09/02 by DiannaBelleRose | Entertainment Podcasts

: Empowering and Inspiring Women Globally- Reparation, A Spiritual Journey 09/02 by DiannaBelleRose | Entertainment Podcasts

Maria Hall talks about her life as a nun in a Catholic sect in Spain for eight years, and her ability to get in touch with her spiritual side and letting go of religious rules.

The Palmarian Church: New Rome Or Fanatical Sect?

On the plains of Andalucía in Southern Spain, the huge gothic basilica of Palmar de Troya stands forever alone on a hilltop – a symbol of yet another sect which had distanced itself from mainstream Catholicism.

Basilica of Palmar de Troya

An imposing wall surrounds the basilica, reminding the world of its isolation, not only religious but actual. Carmelite priests and nuns live in silence within the walls, cut off from the world, yet dedicated to praying for its conversion. No one associated with the sect from the early days, back in the 1970s, would have envisaged such a stark building, such a degree of separation from reality or such an uncertain future.

On the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978, while many Catholics throughout the world remained confused, a small group of traditionalists had gathered around Clemente Dominquez Gomez, a visionary associated with the alleged apparitions of Palmar de Troya in the province of Seville.

The apparitions at Palmar de Troya began in 1968, when four children from the local village said that Mary, the Mother of God, had appeared to them on a hillside as they picked flowers for a school altar.

Padre Pio, Capuchin Monk, with the stigmata in his hand
Padre Pio, Capuchin Monk, with the stigmata in his hand
News of Mary’s appearance spread like wildfire and, soon, other villagers were accompanying them to the place where Mary had supposedly appeared – under a Lentisco tree.

As the crowd grew, others experienced wonderful ecstasies too – seeing visions, hearing heavenly messages and smelling exquisite perfumes. Clemente allegedly received the stigmata, like Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968), the Italian Capuchin monk, and Saint Francis of Assisi.

Clemente shows the stigmata on his chest
Clemente shows the stigmata on his chest
A group of ardent believers sought acknowledgment and approval of the apparitions from the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Seville, Cardinal Jose Maria Bueno y Monreal. Many of the alleged heavenly messages were transcribed and presented to him. However, he harshly condemned them – without making any inquiries or examining the seers – as superstitious and damaging to the Faith. Since he was acting contrary to Church law, some believers resolved to double their efforts to promote the apparitions.

One small group went so far as to travel through Europe and South America, talking about Palmar de Troya and showing slides to interested people. They even visited Pope Paul VI in Rome. On one of these journeys Clemente was involved in a serious car accident. He received horrendous injuries to his face and eyes, and both eyes were removed, leaving him completely blind.

Thanks to a large donation from a wealthy Spanish dowager, Clemente was able to buy the hillside on which the first apparitions took place. Plans were quickly drawn up for the construction of the basilica, and foundations were laid on the site of the original alleged apparitions.

In 1975 Clemente, believing that God had spoken to him in a vision, formed the Order of the Carmelites of the Holy Face (of Jesus). Although the Order didn’t have official approval from Rome, it claimed to be faithful to Pope Paul VI who was considered to be a prisoner in the Vatican – a rumour that had been circulating in traditional circles for several years. Convinced that punishment and war were inevitable if mankind did not repent, and if Catholic priests did not return to the right path and denounce heretical doctrine, Clemente encouraged priests and nuns to leave their religious congregations and join his Carmelite Order in Seville.

Pope Gregory XVII inside the Basilica
Pope Gregory XVII inside the Basilica
In 1976 Ngo Dinh Thuc, an elderly Vietnamese Archbishop, ordained Clemente and his friend, Manuel Alonso Corral who was a lawyer, to the priesthood. After their ordination he made them bishops, together with three other priests associated with the group. More ordinations followed. Although they were subsequently excommunicated by Pope Paul VI, Thuc considered that since the Church was in The Last Times, mandatory authorisation from Rome was not required. Thuc also believed that the Pope secretly supported Clemente and his followers.

When Pope Paul VI died in 1978, Clemente had a vision of himself being crowned Pope by Jesus. He claimed that Jesus had transferred the Papacy from Rome to Palmar de Troya. Clemente took the name Gregory XVII and the motto prophesied by St Malachy, ‘De Gloria Olivae’. He immediately established a College of Cardinals. The newly elected Pope in Rome, John Paul I, was considered by him to be an anti-pope.

The spirituality of the Palmarian Church is based on traditional Catholic practices: the Latin Mass, the Rosary, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction, and The Stations of the Cross; however, as the years pass, Palmarian liturgy and theology veer further from traditional Catholic practice.

Pope Gregory XVIII has resigned from the Papacy having lost his faith.
Pope Gregory XVIII has resigned from the Papacy having lost his faith.
When Clemente died without warning in 2005, so did his prophesy. His successor, Padre Isidoro (Manuel Alonso Corral) took the name Peter II and, during his reign, the rules were tightened even more. On his death in 2011 he was succeeded by his Vicar General, Padre Sergio (Ginés Jesús Hernández Martínez) who took the name Gregory XVIII, until his extraordinary departure from the Order last week, when he resigned, having lost his faith. He has been succeeded by his Vicar General, Padre Eliseo (Markus Josef Odermatt) who has taken the name Peter III.

Today, more than ever, it is difficult to see a future for the Palmarian Church. Their congregation has dwindled from thousands to a few hundred worldwide, their priests and nuns are aging and dying. And many believers – including the Carmelites themselves – have been excommunicated for disobeying petty rules. Families have been torn apart, generations destroyed, inheritances given away.

The basilica stands cold and proud on a remote hilltop, clinging to unfulfilled prophesies. It is seemingly self-sufficient with solar panels and wind generators, and a small holding of sheep and cows protected by razor wire and guard dogs. One wonders about the psychological implications of such imprisonment, not only for the Carmelites but also for the believers, scattered all over the world who, by their very Faith, are separated from normal life and all friendship outside of their religion – family or otherwise.

I was a member of the Palmarian Church from 1980 – 1990, and a Carmelite nun at Palmar de Troya from 1982 – 1990. I have written a memoir: Reparation – a spiritual journey about my experiences.

Adapted from my article ‘The Palmarian Church: New Rome or Fanatical Sect.’ published April 19 2016 by Patheos Hosting the Conversation on Faith.

Maria Hall

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