A topic that has given rise to much discussion relating to the events of Garabandal is the reported prophecy of the three popes, linked to an imminent end of the times. This topic is very delicate and therefore could be misunderstood and misinterpreted. That is why we would like to reflect for a moment on the information at our disposal, being careful that we do not fall into making interpretations that do not correspond to us, but which only the Church is entitled to make.
On June 3, 1963 the news about the death of Pope St. John XXIII had just arrived in Garabandal. Conchita and her mother went toward the Church to pray for the eternal repose of the pontiff. On the way, Conchita heard interiorly the unmistakable voice of Our Mother who told her: “After this pope, there will be only three, and after that will be the end of the times.” Shortly thereafter, the Virgin clarified that while there would only be three popes, there would be another one, but he would “govern the Church for a very short time,” and that was why She did not include him in the list. There are witnesses who affirm that they heard Conchita speaking on this precise matter during that same month of June of 1963. This means that in a single phrase, Our Mother had made two prophecies:
1. There are only three popes left, after which would come the “end of the times.”
2. And as if to assure us that the first statement was certain, Our Mother provided a sign. There would be another pope, but his pontificate would be so short that he was not taken into account in her message.
We all know who that pope was, whose pontificate was so short that he had no impact on the Church’s destiny. John Paul I was pope from August 26, 1978 until his death on September 28, 1978. The 33 days of the pontificate of Pope Luciani fits precisely into that exceptional prophecy, something that was impossible to foresee in 1963. The three popes referenced in Our Lady’s message, therefore, were St. Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. With the arrival of Pope Francis, the time period during which the end of the times would arrive has begun.
But what did this announcement by Our Lady really mean? I must insist that we need to be very prudent and humble in trying to explain it. The same was the case of Sister Lucia of Fatima when the third secret was published in the year 2000. Father José Luis Saavedra explains that before the Holy See published an interpretation undertaken by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, “it was presented to Sister Lucia to get her point of view, to see if she shared that interpretation. Cardinal Ratzinger explained that Sister Lucia responded that she had been given the vision, not its interpretation. The interpretation, she said, is not the responsibility of the visionary, but of the Church.”
The visionary cannot take the risk of interpreting the messages received. His or her duty is to transmit these to the Church for its study and authorized interpretation. That is why, in Garabandal, Conchita has left the judgment on this matter entirely in the hands of the Church. And we should do likewise. We should not take the risk of a freelance interpretation that may undermine our faith and that of others. The understanding of a message derived from a private revelation normally needs many years of evolution. Sometimes it may be necessary even to wait until the predicted events take place. This is because prophecy throughout the history of the Church is not to be confused with fortune telling. It is not merely a prediction of future events, but is always a call to conversion. Prophecy reflects God’s will, more for the present than for the future. It is a call for us to convert today, without waiting for the prophesied events to take place, whose mission is only that of a sign, of confirmation of God’s intervention in history.
The words of Our Mother were: “After this pope, there will be only three, and after that will be the end of the times.” The adverb after, as Father José Luis Saavedra accurately pointed out in his book Garabandal, Message of Hope, does not mean immediately. The terms end of the times and end of the world do not mean the same thing. And this is something Conchita has repeated time and again. “There will be three popes left” does not mean that there won’t be any more popes, nor that the Church will cease, or that humanity will disappear. We need to remove from our heads and our imaginations all of these heavy dark clouds. “After this pope, there will be only three, and after that will be the end of the times” simply means that there are three popes left before this mysterious “end of the times” begins. After this there will continue to be popes, the Church will continue to exist, as will the world. But, we will have entered into a new period in Church history.
Our Mother at Garabandal did not go beyond what she said and we cannot venture to add a single additional word. With everything that is going on, we cannot deny that we are living a moment of great transcendence in the Church’s history. As this document was being written in July of 2019, I had just read a comment by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who presides the German Episcopal Conference. In it he stated that we are not in an age of changes, but that we are in a “change of ages.” He went as far as stating “whoever does not see this, needs to adapt his intellect.” Although surely Cardinal Marx did not intend it, his observation is quite similar to Our Lady’s announcement of an “end of the times.”
This “end of the times” coincides with a moment of severe trials and purification of the Church. This is not an interpretation but something that is evident and can be perceived on a daily basis. Currently the Church is being severely tested, persecuted, and purified. But this does not mean the end of the Church. On the contrary, if we are faithful and respond to Our Mother’s appeals, this situation will lead to a providential moment of grace.
In fact, Father José Luis Saavedra makes a link between the announcement of “the end of the times” and the luminous prophesy of Fatima: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” According to the Spanish Royal Academy, “in the end” is an expression that emphasizes the end of a period of waiting. In the situation that we are discussing, it seems to indicate the conclusion of a period of difficulty prior to the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For Santiago Lanús, an expert in current Marian apparitions, the “end of the times” announced at Garabandal, would “last until the triumph of the Immaculate Heart announced at Fatima.” That end of the times would be characterized by a painful period of interior trials and exterior persecution of the Church, which according to the girls of Garabandal, was of such magnitude that one would get the impression that the Church was about to disappear.
We are already experiencing some of those trials. But let us not yield to the evil temptation to despair or to follow a morbid path, as all of these occurrences that we speak of arise from the deepest mercy of Our Lord’s Sacred Heart. We should never fear future events, but rather place ourselves with confidence in the hands of Our Heavenly Mother, because everything is happening for our own good, to lead us to a profound conversion.
Once again, I must insist that announcements such as those we find in Garabandal need to be interpreted by Church authority and require special prudence and study. Until the Church issues the definitive public pronouncement on Garabandal, let us work toward our own conversion with a heart full of gratitude toward Our Mother who loves us very much and seeks our salvation with determination.
Source: SAAVEDRA, J.L., Garabandal, Message of Hope, Santander, 2015.