Virgin Mary apparitions ‘not always real’, says Pope Francis

‘There are images of the Madonna that are real, but the Madonna has never drawn [attention] to herself,’ says pontiff

Apparitions of the Virgin Mary are “not always real”, Pope Francis has said, in what appears to be an indirect reference to a woman who drew thousands of pilgrims to a town near Rome to pray before a statue that she claimed shed tears of blood.

“Don’t look there,” the pontiff said during an interview with Rai 1 on Sunday when asked about apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

“There are images of the Madonna that are real, but the Madonna has never drawn [attention] to herself,” he said. “I like to see her with her finger pointing up to Jesus. When Marian devotion is too self-centred, it’s not good. Both in the devotion and in the people who carry it forward.”

The interview was aired a few days after residents in Trevignano called on Francis to intervene against Maria Giuseppe Scarpulla, who has been called “the Saint” and “clairvoyant”. For five years she has organised monthly ceremonies in a park overlooking Lake Bracciano, where a statue of the Virgin Mary sits in a glass case.


The statue was bought by Scarpulla, known to her followers as Gisella Cardia, at a Catholic pilgrimage site in Medjugorje, Bosnia. Upon returning to Italy, she claimed the Madonna made apparitions, wept tears of blood and was communicating messages to her.

Marco Salvi, a local bishop, last week urged pilgrims to stop flocking to the site on the third of each month while his diocese investigates the phenomena surrounding the statue. Many people prayed before the statue in search of cures for serious illnesses.

Scarpulla is facing a judicial investigation after a private investigator alleged that the blood stains on the statue came from a pig, and after some of her followers claimed they had been scammed.

Scarpulla, who in the past had been convicted of bankruptcy fraud, created a foundation through which she collected donations, which she reportedly said would go towards setting up a centre for sick children. One man told La Repubblica that he and his wife had donated €123,000 to her foundation.

“We were both ill, we trusted her, it was a clamorous error,” he said.

Scarpulla fled Trevignano in early April amid the furore only to return a few weeks later. She still hosts the ceremonies, although Saturday’s event was reported to be a flop, with only a handful of people in attendance. She said last month that she was undeterred by the investigation as well as an order for the glass case to be demolished.

“I won’t budge an inch because I’m in the house of God and have the Madonna on my side,” she said. – Guardian