Published: Sunday, 5th July 2009
On the outskirts of the City of Rome along the via Laurentina there is a very special place called the Arc of Peace which leads to a very small Marian shrine called by Pope John Paul II, the Great in 1997 “Holy Mary of the Third Millennium at the Three Fountains” a rather strange title but one that matches rather a strange but true story of the Apparition of Our Lady, near to where Saint Paul gave his life for Christ.
It all starts back in 1937, when an Italian lady called Luigina Sinapi, now called “Servant of God,” was visiting the Tre Fontane Trappist Abbey. She had a vision of Our Blessed Lady at this grotto, which was used for all kinds of evil deeds. She related how the Virgin had told her to go to Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli who was the Secretary of State for his Holiness Pope Pius XI at that time. Our Lady also told Luigina that she would return to the grotto in 10 years and convert a man who would try to assassinate the Pope, and moreover, that he, Cardinal Pacelli, would himself be Pope. She went to the Cardinal with the message but his reply was cautious, and in effect he said he would wait and see. In 1939 Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli duly became Pope Pius XII. (Luigina was not only a friend of Cardinal Pacelli, but a friend of Padre Pio, who is said to have come for her on her deathbed in 1978)
Bruno Cornacchiola was born in Rome on May 9th 1913. Like most boys he was uneventful in his early years, although he was wild and unruly. He lived in a poor district of Rome and this may have had a bearing on his life. He went to Catholic school but did not perform well leaving early. Eventually he decided to get married to a Roman woman called Yolanda lo Gatto in 1936 at the early age of 23. After the initial romance he abandons her, and being somewhat restless, and angry, decides to go to join the fighting in the Spanish Civil War where he thinks he might earn a fortune fighting for the Fascists. He also stated that the war was also in a way, begun to rid Spain of the entire Catholic Church there.
He was to say later that he had met a lapsed Lutheran in Madrid whom he liked, and that this man told him that the Catholic Church was the root of all evils and the cause of all the world’s problems. The man especially singled out Pope Pius XII for a torrent of hatred and verbal abuse. Bruno then quickly bought a dagger for use to kill the Pontiff. He even inscribes on the dagger the words “death to the Pope.” This same dagger can be seen today in the Vatican museums.
He then decides to go back to Italy, where he hopes to get a new job, and reunite with his family. He wants to hatch out his plan to kill the Pope, something which he kept to himself and never revealed it to anyone, until after the apparitions.
By late 1939 he is back in Rome and finds a job as a tram driver with the Roman public transport company “ATAC”. Soon he and his young wife Yolanda to whom he is now re-united, lets say unhappily, have 3 young children, Carlo, Gianfranco and Isola. However he becomes even more unhappy with his life and especially with the Catholic Church. Eventually looking for some outlet for his feelings of hatred joins the 7th day Adventists. He also goes on to join the local communist party, because this gives him the stimulus and excuse to be anti Catholic.
He is quite violent toward his wife and children, all of whom suffered from his daily beatings. He has also demanded that his wife leave the Catholic Church and join him also as a 7th day Adventist. She initially refuses, but does so on condition, that before she leaves, both of them should go to mass at least for the nine, first Friday devotions.(First Friday of every month in honour of the Sacred Heart). Bruno laughed at the idea, but decided to go to mass with Yolanda anyway to try to please her, as she was very insistent. They both completed the nine first Friday devotions somehow, after which Yolanda is very reluctant to leave the Catholic Church, but she did as she had promised. She then at his request joins the Adventists in Rome.
Over the years he becomes an ardent supporter of the Adventists and goes around giving talks against the Catholic Church, and in particular against Our Blessed Lady, his heart full of hate for Her.
On Saturday April the 12th in 1947, which was the first Saturday after Easter and the eve of what we now celebrate as the Feast of the Divine Mercy. Bruno and his 3 children, went to the Tre Fontane, (called in English the Three Fountains) He had planned to go to the beach at Ostia, but had missed the train and decided at the last minute to visit the fountains as it was quite and the place was lush with grass and places to sit down.
Bruno sat on the grass reading his rendition of the bible. He was looking for things to write about Our Lady, whom he wanted to denounce at his Sunday service, including a vicious attack on Her Immaculate Conception, citing in his writings “you are neither virgin nor mother.” All the while his three children played with a football and like all kids were laughing, screaming and running around, in front of the sordid grotto that was under the trees in a secluded place.
Bruno was so engrossed in his writings, and in his secret plot to kill the Pope, which he had planned for the following Saturday, September 8th 1947, (the Feast of the Birthday of Mary.) He had failed to notice the silence and stillness that came about suddenly, but he immediately noticed that his children had vanished. It dawned on him that something was very strange and he immediately sprang up into action, and went looking for them. He eventually found them all kneeling inside this cave, or grotto, as the Italians would call it and which was used for immoral purposes in the night. The children were stuck to the ground, kneeling with their hands joined as in prayer, and saying over and over again the words “O beautiful Lady”, but he saw nothing at that moment.
Bruno tried to lift them up but was unable to do so as they seemed to weigh more than a ton each, and no matter what he did he could not budge them. Becoming desperate he eventually cried out “O God help me.” With that he was somehow forced to kneel, and felt someone touch his two eyes, as though with two invisible hands, and then at once he beheld a most “beautiful Lady.” She had a motherly expression but was very sad. She wore a green mantle over a long white dress with a rose coloured sash and She held a copy of the bible in her hands which were clasped together at the breast. He was transfixed at Her beauty, and felt himself welling up with a joy he had never experienced. He also noted a broken crucifix at her feet and a large amount of black clothing.( this Bruno was to explain to me later, that the clergy would stop wearing their cassocks, which was a suit of armour for them, and which helped them overcome certain temptations. The broken crosses symbolised when they would stop believing in Christ and abandon the Church, as did some 200,000 priests did after the Second Vatican Council)
The Lady began to speak to him saying “I am She who is in the Divine Trinity. I am the Virgin of Revelation. You have persecuted me! Now is the time to stop, enough of this! Come and be part of the true Church, which is the Celestial Court on Earth. God’s promises are unchangeable and will remain so. The nine first Fridays in honour of the Sacred Heart of My Son, which your faithful wife persuaded you to observe before you walked down the road of lies, has saved you. Go now and reconcile with the Church, and with the Holy Father. Live the Divine doctrine, practice Christianity, live the faith. The Hail Mary’s that you pray with faith and love are like golden arrows that go straight to the Heart of Jesus. Go, pray much, recite the rosary, and pray for the conversion of sinners, for unbelievers and for all Christians”
Our Lady continued to speak to him in an apparition which took over 80 minutes. She said that “I promise this special favour, that with this sinful soil, (the soil from the cave, which is tuffa, or soft stone) I shall perform great miracles for the conversion of unbelievers and of sinners. Science will deny God and will refuse His calls.” She reveals to him in a moment the very sad condition of his soul, and at once all the false arguments and prejudices against the Church fell apart. He saw before him the way to salvation, which is the Holy Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Our Lady then consigns a very special message for the Holy Father, the Venerable Servant of God, Pope Pius XII, about Her Glorious Assumption into Heaven, saying “You must go to the Holy Father, the Pope, the Supreme Pastor of the one true Church on earth and personally tell him of my message, bring it to his attention. I will also point out to you a priest to whom you must go to confess and who will accompany you to see the Pope” and She further tells him to greet every priest with the following message “ say to each of them, Father I wish to speak to you. When the priest who answers you like this “Ave Maria, my son what do you want”, then, he will be the one who will lead you to a confessor and on to meet the Holy Father.”
Other messages that Our Lady asked were that we should pray a lot for the conversion of poor sinners and in particular to pray the rosary. She also explained that She was daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son and spouse of the Holy Spirit and in that way, had a unique relationship to the Most Blessed Trinity. In the second identification she chose to reveal herself in relation to Bruno's activity of Bible reading: "I am the Virgin of the Revelation." By this second title she corrects the error of those who would deny her privileges as unfounded, unnecessary inventions of the Catholic Church, not found in Divine Revelation in the Bible. She was admonishing a return to God and a more literal living of the holy Gospel: "Return to the pure source of the Gospel.”
In a noteworthy departure from other modern apparitions, Our Lady appeared not only to a non-practicing Catholic but to a zealous enemy of the Church and of Herself personally. What message did she have for the wayward Bruno Cornacchiola and our times? We know only part of it; the remainder was to be delivered to Pope Pius XII, who later was to bless the statue of the Virgin that stands today in the grotto where she appeared. There were other messages for individual priests and specifically for the Fillippini Sisters when Our Lady asked that this message be brought to them “ Go to my beloved daughters, the teachers Fillippini, and tell them that their mission is to be one of intense prayer for the conversion of nonbelievers and sinners.( The Institute of the Religious Teachers Filippini was founded by Lucy Filippini and Cardinal Mark Anthony Barbarigo who, in 1692, looked ahead with a vision to fulfilling their generous, ardent and profound mission of faith and charity. The schools they founded were intended to promote the dignity of womanhood, and help influence a healthy family life.
St. Lucy Filippini and Cardinal Barbarigo founded schools of Christian Doctrine for girls in Italy. St. Lucy also ministered to the poor and the sick, conducted retreats and guided the women preparing for marriage. A contemplative in action, she blended her life of prayer with her life of ministry.)
Bruno returned home with the beautiful scent of the perfume that pervaded the cave where Our Lady had appeared to him. His wife Yolanda perceived this beautiful smell and immediately realised that it came from heaven. She rushed to confession and to reconcile herself with the Catholic Church. When she returns, she finds the whole family in tears and asks what has happened. The children explain that they saw a beautiful Lady and Bruno was on his knees asking her forgiveness for the way he has treated her over the years.
It would take Bruno almost two years to find that priest who would say “Ave Maria” to him, and at this stage he had asked hundreds of them. Eventually he did find the right one and things began to take shape. He went to confession as Our Lady asked that he would and asked forgiveness for his many sins, and that he formally reunite with the Church and do penance. So a new life of intense prayer had begun for Bruno and with it a life of grace.
The “ATAC” group were again invited to pray with the Holy Father on the first Saturday in May of 1949 and Bruno was there. Upon completion of the Rosary the Pope gave the blessing and was departing, when suddenly he turned around and asked a very strange question “I think someone here would like to speak with me.” Bruno taken by surprise, raised his hand and approached the Holy Father on his knees, while producing the dagger and telling him of the plot to kill him, but for the intercession of Our Lady at the Tre Fontane. He begged the Pope’s forgiveness which was immediately given.
Bruno repented of his sinful life and became an extraordinary Catholic founding a Holy association of catechists who have spread around the world, working in various dioceses. It is not known precisely if there was just one, or many apparitions, some say 28. However the messages we have been given are very important and in particular the special message from heaven for the Pope on the fact of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, Body and Soul into heaven.
In fact after a special meeting between Bruno and Pope Pius XII in 1949 when this message was delivered, the Pope issued an Apostolic Constitution defining the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. The document was called Munificentissimus Deus, and was issued on the 1st of November 1950, which was also declared a Jubilee Year.
In this Constitution he restates what he had been told that the Virgin Mary by “ an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by Her Immaculate Conception and as a result She was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of the body.” The Holy Father states that after having asked the Bishops of the world for a consensus on the dogma of the Assumption states “from the universal agreement of the Church’s ordinary teaching authority we have a certain and firm proof, demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven, which surely no faculty of the human mind could know by its own natural powers, as far as the heavenly glorification of the virginal body of the loving Mother of God is concerned, is a truth that has been revealed by God and consequently something that must be firmly and faithfully believed by all children of the Church”. (MD. Number 8.)
Gradually over the many years that followed the apparitions, the Archdiocese of Rome ordered that the Conventual Franciscans should now run the Shrine and develop it as a proper Marian Shrine. Pope Pius XII has already blessed the special statue in Saint Peter’s square in 1947, and which was brought to the Tre Fontane shrine by the Popes personal carriage.
Bruno went on to found a group called “Sacri” at the inspiration and request of Our Lady and who are now spread around the world. The specific apostolate is catechesis. These groups work in many dioceses setting up special centres whereby they teach catechesis to both adult and children.
The Feast day of the Virgin of Revelation is celebrated at the Shrine of the Tre Fontane on April 12th every year. This is without doubt an extraordinary place and I would encourage the reader to attend the celebrations of April 12 along with the 20,000 others who will be there for the afternoon mass and rosary. The Pope’s Vicar General for the City of Rome or for Vatican City are the usual main celebrants along with up to 100 priests and religious. There are many miracles attributed to the clay that Our Lady promised She would work miracles with, and many people even today, receive graces, cures and other consolations, at this very special shrine.
Bruno Cornacchiola, the seer of the Virgin of the Revelation, died on the 22nd of June 2001, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
For those pilgrims who would like to visit the Shrine, the nearest airport is Rome’s Ciampino. The website for the Sacri is www.associazionesacri.it
This feature is categorised under Marian Shrines