The Three Popes and Garabandal

Revisited Again in Light of the Passing of His Holiness Pope John Paul II

For many years, some followers of Garabandal theorized that Pope John Paul II's reign would see “the end of the times”. Although plausible on the surface, this scenario did not come to pass as some expected. While the pope's passing is in many ways the end of an era or epoch – especially if considered from a moral perspective – there is nothing to indicate that his demise marks the fulfilment of any particular Garabandal prophecy tied to the warning or miracle.

The Facts

One of the more startling prophecies of Garabandal concerns the three popes who would follow Blessed Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), and especially the last of the three: John Paul II (1978-2005). According to some conjectures, John Paull II supposedly would witness the great miracle at Garabandal, and the end of his reign supposedly would usher in “the end of the times” (el fin de los tiempos, in the original Spanish).

The careful reader will note the use of the adjective “supposedly” twice in the previous sentence. This is deliberate. While one can speculate that Pope John Paul II may indeed have witnessed the miracle before his death – or will witnes it after death from Heaven --, this is speculation, not fact. It may be that he will see it, yet it also may be for another to see it. We simply do not know.

What is certain, however, is that by the end of his reign a very definite end of the present times, or “era”, had come about. In fact, one can argue convincingly that this time already had come, long before his death.

But first, let us turn to the aspect of the prophecy that deals with a pope seeing the miracle. That we do not know for certain if it was or will be Pope John Paul II needs to be underscored. For many years, some of Garabandal's most prominent promoters have linked the pope who will see miracle as the same one whose reign will see the end of the times. Although plausible, we repeat, this scenario is not necessarily so.

The Original Dialogue

To understand the matter better, we need to go back and visit the events as they actually unfolded, in time and in their proper context. A careful reading of the dialogue as originally related by Conchita herself yields some very interesting information, which in its subtlety easily can be confused. For this, we first turn to the original Spanish text, as it appears in Se Fue con Prisas a la Montana, the Spanish-language predecessor to She Went in Haste to the Mountain.

On 3 June 1963 — the day of the passing of Pope John XXIII — after learning that the village bells were tolling for the pope, Conchita made a startling remark to her mother Aniceta: “For sure…now there remain no more than three [popes]!” (Seguramente… Pues, ya no quedan mas que tres!)1 Although this was the first time that Aniceta had heard this announcement, it appears that Conchita had made mention of this more than six months earlier to others. She perhaps first was told this on 20 December 1962, as indicated by a letter that Conchita's aunt Maximina sent to friends that same day.2

Naturally, Aniceta was shocked, and asked if this meant the end of the world was approaching (?Quiere decir que viene ya el fin del mundo?). Conchita's response was that the Virgin did not say “the end of the world”, but rather “the end of the times”. Further, after being asked if these two were not the same, she answered only: “Well, I don't know that.” (Pues, no lo se.)3

Subsequent recorded comments by Conchita on the matter are few. We know that some days later (probably 5 June) she mentioned three times to three women that there would be only three more popes (Digo tambien que ya solo quedan tres Papas.)4, after which would come “the end of the times”. Here she added that, again, she did not know what this enigmatic phrase meant.5 At least four other times Conchita repeated this statement (once to no less eminent a personage than Fr. Lucio Rodrigo, then a professor of moral theology at the Pontifical University at Comillas).

One person to whom Conchita repeated this message was Mother Maria des Nieves de Garcia, the headmistress of the school Conchita attended briefly in Burgos. In this conversation, which took place on 1 November 1966, instead of noting that she did not know whether “the end of the times” was the equivalent of “the end of [all] time”, Conchita drew a finer distinction.

According to Mother des Nieves' own notes, Conchita earlier had asked the Virgin if these two events would be one and the same. The reply was emphatically that they would not be. Specifically, the Virgin mentioned that there would be two more popes after the then-current pontiff (Paul VI, 1963-1978), and then the end of the times.6 We do not know when Conchita was told this, except that it obviously was after Paul VI had been made pope.

Later Comments and Confusion

Since the last of these early conversations with others, we know of no additional comments by Conchita on the matter. However, if any had been made, it seems likely they would have been disseminated quickly amongst the Garabandal community. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it therefore seems safe to say that Conchita's remarks as recorded by her former headmistress (and others) 37 years ago hold true, and with nothing new added to them. If so, we can state with assurance at least the following:

1. Pope John Paul II is the last of the explicitly referenced three remaining popes subsequent to Blessed Pope John XXIII.

2. The end of the times — but not the end of time itself — will coincide with the end of his pontificate.

That “the end of the times” is a momentous benchmark of some sort is obvious. One anecdotal suggestion of just how seriously Conchita takes this prophecy is revealed by her reaction upon hearing of the death of Pope John Paul I, whose brief reign of 36 days ended on 28 September 1978. An acquaintance of hers, with her on that same day, noted that the visionary became visibly agitated after hearing the news of the pontiff's passing.7 Surely, that John Paul I's death would provoke such a strong reaction is not something to be taken lightly.

On the other hand, in an attempt to buttress a belief that the present pope will be the last one (and in this case, of all time), some have attempted to link — erroneously — Conchita's comments with the so-called prophecies of St. Malachi (Malachy), an eleventh-century Irish monk. These alleged predictions of St. Malachy are spurious, the work of a Belgian monk, Arnold de Wion (or de Wyon), who wrote them six centuries after St. Malachy died.8

An Attempt at Clarification

Where, then, does the prediction that a pope will see the miracle come from, and can we claim to know which pope it is who will see it?

According to Fr. Garcia de Pesquera9, sometime in September of 1962, Conchita made the statement that the pope — whoever it would be at that time — would see the miracle to come, whether he was in Garabandal or elsewhere. This prediction was made roughly three months before the Virgin told her of the three remaining popes. The Blessed Mother did not say in this earlier dialogue that the pope who would see the miracle also would be the last of the three popes to follow then-Pope John XXIII.

We note with equal interest that in the apparition of December that same year, the Virgin made no mention of the third (or any) pope seeing the miracle. In other words, her comments regarding a pope seeing the miracle were delivered in September of 1962, with no reference to who that pope would be. And in her later comments regarding the number of remaining popes, no mention was made of one of them being the one who would see the miracle.

From this, a number of conclusions arise, amongst them the possibility that any future pope could see — or could have seen — the miracle. This would include popes Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, or anyone who follows.

It is probably safe to say that neither Paul VI nor John Paul I saw the miracle, as surely some mention would have been made of it. We know, of course, that Fr. Luis Andreu and St. Pio saw the miracle, but we also assume that no one else has seen it, including any pontiff. If Pope John Paul II was to have been the last pope of all time, it would have been a logical necessity that he would have see the miracle.

If, however, he is not the last pope, but instead the last pope of the[se] times, it does not follow that he must ipso facto be the pope to witness the miracle.

So do we have a right to infer that our beloved late pope did or will see the miracle? We do not. It may seem plausible, but there is no direct link between the miracle to come in Garabandal and which pope will see it.

Here we turn again to She Went in Haste to the Mountain. On page 486, there is a very important sentence written in 1963 by Fr. Luis Lopez Retenaga, as a summation of what was definitively known regarding who this pope will be: “The Virgin did not say specifically which pope.”10

What We Know for Certain

To the above two conclusions now can be added the following third one.

3. There will be a pope who will see the miracle to come.

It seems beyond all doubt that neither popes Paul VI nor John Paul I saw the miracle, and likely not John Paul II, either, which leaves one of his successors as the one who will see it.

The temptation to assume it would have been John Paull II is admittedly strong. If he is the third pope after Blessed Pope John XXIII, some say, then he is the chosen pope. But this does not follow from Conchita's words. All we know for certain is that a pope will see the miracle.

We can combine this certainty with the fact that John Paul II's reign marks “the end of the times”, a phrase that can mean many things, as will be discussed later in a subsequent article. But we cannot say that therefore this pope must also be the one who will see the miracle, because we do not know whether there will be another pope after “the end of the times”.

We repeat: If there is a successor to the late Pope John Paul II, this means only that John Paul II's reign saw the termination of a certain epoch (i.e., “the end of the[se] times”). It does not mean that he saw the miracle, any more than it means he was the last pope.

The crucial point is that the phrase “last pope” is inextricably linked with “the end of the times”. This is nothing more than a re-stating of our original two conclusions. And if the end of the times means an end to a specific era or epoch (as Garcia de Pesquera and others argue11), and not an end to time in an eschatological sense, there is no contradiction in saying that there will be a successor pontiff and therefore that another will see the miracle instead of the present pope.

End Notes

1. Garcia de Pesquera, Fr. Eusebio, O.F.M., Cap., Se Fue con Prisas a la Montana, 1972, p. 224.
2. Garcia de Pesquera, Fr. Eusebio, O.F.M., Cap., She Went in Haste to the Mountain (2000 ed., trans. by Dr. Brian Miller, edited and updated by Barry Hanratty and Irene Dutra), Lindenhurst, NY: Our Lady of Mount Carmel de Garabandal, 2000, p. 481.
3. —————., Se Fue con Prisas a la Montana, p. 225.
4. Ibid.
5. —————., She Went in Haste to the Mountain, p. 482.
6. Ibid. See also Perez, Ramon (trans. by Annette I. Curot Matthews), Garabandal: The Village Speaks, Lindenhurst, NY: Our Lady of Mount Carmel de Garabandal, 1998 ed., p. 61.
7. Author's private correspondence, name withheld upon request.
8. Groesbeck, Geoffrey A. P., “9 Garabandal Myths” in Garabandal International Magazine (October - December 2003), Fyshwick, Australia: Canberra Publishing and Printing, p. 14. See also P?rez, Ramon, op. cit., p. 60.
9. —————., She Went in Haste to the Mountain, pp. 422-3.
10. Ibid., p. 486. See also the first edition of She Went in Haste to the Mountain (Book Three), Cleveland: St. Joseph Publications, 1981, p. 144.
11. Ibid., pp. 483-5.

Reprinted with kind permission: by Geoffrey A. P.Groesbeck, April 2005

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