Faith and Spirituality

Vatican reveals 1951 decree rejecting ‘Lipa apparition’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Vatican reveals 1951 decree rejecting ‘Lipa apparition’
(1st UPDATE) The controversial Vatican decree – long derided as nonexistent – declares that the alleged Lipa apparition ‘turns out not to have a supernatural origin and character’

MANILA, Philippines – The Archdiocese of Lipa announced on Tuesday, March 19, that the Vatican has revealed a controversial 1951 decree declaring there was nothing supernatural in an alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary in Lipa, Batangas. 

Devotees have long claimed that the Vatican decree is nonexistent, while the Catholic Church has declined to publish the document – until recently.

The alleged Lipa apparition made headlines after Harriet Demetriou, former justice of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, sued a Dominican exorcist priest over the issue in December 2022. Demetriou said Father Winston Cabading – who was arrested and briefly detained in May 2023 – is liable for “offending religious feelings” for discrediting the reported apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1948.

One of the arguments cited by Demetriou is that, contrary to the claims of the Lipa apparition’s critics, there is no Vatican decree dated March 29, 1951 declaring that the alleged apparition was not supernatural. 

Demetriou also filed a separate perjury complaint against Cabading over the supposed nonexistence of the 1951 Vatican decree. This complaint was dismissed in late January, but Demetriou vowed to pursue the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Demetriou, a Marian devotee, has long challenged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to produce the Vatican ruling. In response, the Catholic Church has long maintained that the decree exists, but such rulings are not usually published.

In a circular on Tuesday, Lipa Archbishop Gilbert Garcera announced that the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) “has released a copy of the much-awaited 1951 decree regarding the conclusion of the Holy See on the alleged apparition in Lipa.”

Garcera said the DDF, which is the Vatican department in charge of doctrinal matters, divulged this decree “upon the fervent request of His Excellency Most Reverend Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.”

The Vatican ruling was approved in an audience with Pope Pius XII on March 29, 1951, and was authenticated by the current DDF prefect under Pope Francis, Cardinal Victor Fernandez.

The 1951 Vatican decree, originally in Italian, reads: 

S.O. 226/49

28th day of May 1951

By order of the Most Holy Father’s will:

The apostolic delegate is to authorize the apostolic administrator to issue a document from the Curia, in which is declared that the events of Lipa, after serious examination, turns out not to have a supernatural origin and character.

In audience with His Holiness
Thursday, 29th day of March 1951

Certified authentic:
Victor Cardinal Fernandez, prefect

RULING. This Vatican decree dated March 29, 1951, declares that the alleged Lipa apparition is not supernatural. Courtesy of Archdiocese of Lipa

Reacting to the Vatican’s release of the 1951 ruling, Cabading noted that the perjury complaint filed by Demetriou “is anchored on the claim that the 1951 Vatican decree does not exist.” He said, “Now that the DDF, the CBCP, and the Archdiocese of Lipa have made it known, its implications are clear.”

“Everything has been unfolded for the vindication of the Church in God’s perfect time. This is what I really feel,” Cabading told Rappler.

In a Facebook post, the Dominican exorcist noted how the decree was publicized on the Feast of Saint Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary.

“Today, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the Church released finally the documentary proof and truth that, in 1951, the Lipa apparition has been judged ‘not of God‘ (not supernatural) by authority of the Supreme Pontiff PP. Pius XII,” Cabading wrote on Facebook.

The reported Lipa apparition has long been a source of tension between the Catholic Church hierarchy and the devotees of what they call “Our Lady of Lipa,” also known as Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace. 

Church leaders have repeatedly said nothing is miraculous about the 1948 apparition, but devotees like Demetriou have questioned such statements by bishops and priests.

In a letter to Bishop David, Cardinal Fernandez of the DDF said he was not only providing a copy of the 1951 Vatican decree on the Lipa apparition, but also furnishing them a copy of the letter “in which Sister Mother Mary Cecilia of Jesus, OCD, then the superior of the convent where the known events occurred, confessed guiltily to having deceived the faithful about the alleged apparitions in Lipa and consequently asked for forgiveness.”

“This fact definitively and directly confirms the non-supernatural nature of the events in Lipa,” Fernandez said.

In a January 31 meeting with Carmelite sisters on the Lipa apparition, Archbishop Garcera said that while the 1951 decree should be publicized, the letter of Mother Cecilia of Jesus “should not be circularized due to the sensitivity of the personal letter of Mother Cecilia to the Holy Father.”

However, the Carmelite sisters of Lipa should be given a copy for their files.

Garcera noted that both the 1951 decree and Mother Cecilia’s letter to the Pope “are already with the bishops for future reference.”

He noted that  “the basis of the Vatican decision of 1951 (dated 28 May 1951) is the confession of Mother Cecilia of Jesus, OCD (dated 17 March 1951).”

According to the minutes of the meeting, the Carmelite sisters thanked Garcera and his staff, and requested them to relay their gratitude to David “for the effort of acquiring the said documents of 1951.” The sisters said they wished David would visit and celebrate Mass at their convent.

“With the documents of 1951, which are already released by the Dicastery, it was concluded that celebrating September 12, the alleged apparition date, is no longer necessary,” the records stated. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email