By Howard Q Dee
This article is written for the Inquirer at the request of my friend Ms. June Keithley-Castro, an ardent devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary and exponent of her messages to mankind given during various apparitions in the different parts of the world, notably at Fatima (1917), Amsterdam (1945) and Akita (1973), not to mention Lipa in the Philippines for which she has undertaken considerable research and media advocacy.
The recent giant 9.1 earthquake that shook Japan this month calls our attention to Akita in the prefecture of Sendai, in North Japan, which was the hardest hit and is still struggling to control the spread of deadly radiation being released by its crippled nuclear reactors. The Chapel of Akita, the site of Our Lady of Akita’s apparitions, is situated in the Diocese of Niigata in Sendai where the death toll of the earthquake is estimated to reach thousands of victims.
In the aftermath of the quake, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan, Very Rev. Leo Ikenaga, tried unsuccessfully to contact Bishop Tarcisio Ichao Kikuchi of the Diocese of Niigata. He was gravely concerned as Bishop Kikuchi is the President of Caritas Japan whose responsibility is to mobilize help for all affected dioceses. According to news reports, Archbishop Ikenaga was sending a team to investigate the extent of damage in the Diocese of Niigata and to try to locate Bishop Kikuchi. Initial reports indicate that Akita received significantly less damage than other parts of northern Japan, despite its proximity to the epicenter. However, residents did report power outages, burst pipes, and fires.
Our Lady appeared in 1973 to Sis. Agnes Sasagawa, a cloistered nun of the Handmaids of the Eucharist, a religious congregation founded by the late Bishop John Ito of the Diocese of Niigata. She told Sis. Agnes:
“If men do not repent and better themselves, God the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity, It will be a punishment greater than the (biblical) flood, such as never seen before.”
“Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead.”
“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church, in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops.”
“Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises, and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.”
“The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the sign left by My Son. Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary,” she told Sr. Agnes. “With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests.”
Bishop Ito had commissioned a Japanese sculptor to carve a statue of Our Blessed Mother, using as model a picture of the oil painting of Our Lady of All Nations who appeared in Amsterdam in 1945, also warning of a time of tribulation and purification. Our Lady is depicted as standing on the globe in front of a wooden cross, her arms outstretched and hands opened, in a warm gesture of welcome to the pilgrim.
After her last message to Sis. Agnes, given on October 13, 1973, the wooden statue of Our Lady of Akita enshrined in the chapel where the apparitions had occurred began to emit tears and drops of blood from a cross-shaped wound in the palm of her right hand. At the same time, Sis. Agnes’ left hand started to bleed. The statue wept a total of 101 times.
I was at that time, in 1988, posted at the Vatican and writing my second book on Our Lady’s messages to mankind, when I learned about her apparitions in Akita from John Haffert, the founder of the Worldwide Apostolate of Fatima. I got in touch with Bishop Ito to get more information and he told me that he had undertaken a ten year investigation into the Akita events, including independent laboratory tests on the tears and blood from the Akita image of Our Lady of All Nations, which proved they were of human origin and that he had brought a pastoral letter he had written to the Holy See, seeking approval from His Eminence, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. He told me that he had expected Cardinal Ratzinger to just receive his pastoral letter for study by his staff of experts and give him the Congregation’s judgment after due time. Instead, Cardinal Ratzinger, after receiving him courteously, asked Bishop Ito to wait while he read the Bishop’s pastoral letter, after which, Cardinal Ratzinger gave him approval to disseminate his pastoral to the faithful, and asked him to just get an endorsement from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan. I had occasion to inquire from the President of the Catholic Bishops of Japan when he was visiting Cardinal Sin in Manila, as to the position of the Conference on the Akita events and His Excellency told me that Bishop Ito had undertaken a thorough investigation of the events and they found no necessity of altering his conclusions that these events were indeed supernatural in origin.
From the swiftness of Cardinal Ratzinger’s positive response, Bishop Ito told me he surmised that the Cardinal who was at that time the custodian of the Third Secret of Fatima, must have recognized the similarity of the Akita messages with that of Fatima, of which authenticity there was no doubt, and therefore approved his pastoral for immediate dissemination to the faithful, without further ado.
To better appreciate this connection between these messages, between that of Fatima in 1917 and Amsterdam in 1945 and Akita in 1973, I was struck, first, by their dates: Amsterdam occurred 28 years after Fatima and Akita 28 years after Amsterdam. And 28 years after Akita would be 2001, the first year of the third millennium. The Holy Father, the late Pope John Paul the Great, had written in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, that it seemed to him, that as we approach the third millennium, the prophecy of Our Lady of Fatima given to the shepherd children would be fulfilled.
The Second correlation is the connection provided by heaven: Sis. Agnes was taught by her guardian angel the Fatima prayers which were dictated to the children of Fatima, also by the angel of Portugal. The appearances of Our Lady of Akita were similar to those at Fatima, on the 13th of the month; her last appearance at Akita was on October 13, 1973 on the anniversary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima. This led Bishop Ito to conclude that the Akita message was a continuation of the Fatima message.
The third correlation is the apocalyptic content of all the three messages: At Fatima, with its third secret now fully disclosed, we see an angel with a flaming sword about the scorch the earth when stopped by Our Lady in her splendor which caused the angel to shout three times: penance, penance, penance while pointing to the world. Sister Lucia, when asked by the late Pope John Paul II, to elucidate on this vision, said that it is not God who is punishing us in this manner, but mankind, by its transgressions, bringing upon itself this scorching of the earth. Lucia said further that if it has not yet happened, mankind, by it sins of immorality, injustice, especially against the poor, is slowly but with great strides approaching this eventuality.
While Our Lady had warned about great disasters befalling mankind, there was no mention of a massive earthquake that would hit Japan, unlike in Rwanda where Our Lady appeared in Kibeho to warn its people of rivers of blood that would flow in their midst, which actually happen 10 years later when civil strife broke out causing a manslaughter of Christians, wiping out a great part of the population.
Our Lady of Akita had warned that “fire will fall from the sky.” John Haffert of the Blue Army produced a video document with the help of Dr J. Rand McNally, a nuclear scientist, to show how this could literally happen.
When the third secret of Fatima was disclosed in 2000, it was accompanied by a commentary from Cardinal Ratzinger. His Eminence, commenting on the vision of the angel with a flaming sword about to scorch the earth, wrote that the possibility of the earth would be engulfed in fire is no longer in the realm of fantasy, as man, by his inventions of weapons of mass destruction, has made this possible. Dr. McNally, using scientific methods, demonstrated how this could actually happen, that fire will literally fall from the sky as the atmosphere is ignited with nuclear fusion fire, feeding on the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, in a nuclear hurricane that could envelop nations in fire, even span continents.
The present danger from the crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, if the radiation leaks continue unabated, may pose a similar risk as the highly contaminated waters flow into the ocean and are carried across continents. What was alarming was the report last Sunday that the radiation reached 10 million times the normal level. This was corrected to 100,000 times which is still cause for alarm. Nuclear scientists must investigate this danger to discount the possibility that nuclear radiation in water could also create a nuclear fusion, feeding on the oxygen in the water, to multiply itself in great amounts that become uncontrollable as it spreads in the oceans. The reports today confirm that the Fukushima contaminated waters have reached Florida and Massachusetts. As of this writing, the valiant battle to contain radiation leakage in the plant has been abandoned. The effort has been switched to decommissioning the six reactors which will take 30 years at an estimated cost of one trillion yen ($12 billion).
As Our Lady of Akita told Sis. Agnes, we need to pray. A Marian group is requesting all Filipino Catholics to pray a Rosary a day for Japan that it may avert this nuclear danger and be on its way to full recovery. Some Filipino artists are organizing a Jam for Japan. Perhaps Caritas Manila and the Inquirer can also start a fund campaign to help Bishop Kikuchi of Akita attend to the Japanese earthquake victims in need.
Our Lady of Akita, pray for the Japanese people!