A Colossal Monument to Diabolic Disorientation
From the November 2007 issue of Catholic Family News
By John Vennari
The Church of the Holy Trinity opened at Fatima on October 12, the eve of the 90th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun. It is a project conceived and completed by Shrine Rector Luciano Guerra, the man who permitted Hindus to worship at the Catholic altar at Fatima in 2004.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone presided over the building’s consecration, blessing the new church accompanied by an altar girl at his side who carried the holy water.
I traveled to Fatima to witness the event, and to take a good look at the new structure now open to the public. It is a stark monstrosity with no soul. I snapped many photos, a small portion of which are included in the photo report in this issue.
` In a certain sense, the place needs little commentary. Most who look on it recognize its gargantuan hideousness. The Catholic soul gazing on it is shaken to his inmost being, and whispers prayers of reparation that a building so grotesque could be presented to God and to the Catholic world as a church at the very spot sanctified by Our Lady’s visitations 90 years ago.
The new building is billed as the fourth largest church in the world, following behind the more Catholic structures of St. Peters in Rome, Our Lady of Aparecida Shrine in Brazil, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.
The architecture is primarily functional and thus thoroughly modern. The main purpose in the building’s design is for easy movement of the large crowds that flock to Fatima each year. The building seats 9000 people, has a center wide enough for three SUVs to roll side-by-side down the main aisle, and has no columns so as not to obstruct live television broadcasts. As in movie theaters, the floor slopes down from back to front.
The round, windowless exterior looks more like a maximum security prison or a whale aquarium than anything remotely Catholic. The large concrete walls that run across the center and jut out from the back give the appearance of something from an outer-space film. The building could be called “Intergalactic Center for Peace among the Planets” with no questioned asked.
The building’s cavernous interior is stark and cold, the spiritual equivalent to a walk-in freezer. Apart from the large crucifix, grotesquely topped with a Neanderthal face of Our Lord, the building could pass for something from the United Nations. The absence of windows augments its ugliness.
Behind the crucifix is a large mosaic of “The Heavenly Jerusalem” composed of artwork that is modern but not as offensive as the rest of the building.
The Blessed Sacrament is kept in some far-off area that is either impossible to find or closed to the public. There is no sanctuary lamp. A priest of my acquaintance searched the hall for 15 minutes and never found a tabernacle. I asked another priest wandering around inside where is the tabernacle. “I have no idea” he said half-laughing at the absurdity of it all.
Then there’s the “Tall Cross” — a steel-monstrosity of a crucifix that soars 110 feet in the air next to the new temple. It looks as if it was made with melted steel girders.
The Shrine commissioned modern German artist Robert Schad to design the cross within the iconography of the new Church of the Holy Trinity. According to the August 30 Jornal de Notícias, Schad was selected because of his persistence with Rector Guerra and the support of the basilica’s architect, the Greek Orthodox Alexandros Tombazis.
Schad described his work of art thus: “It is a crucifix turned towards the 21st century, showing a heartfelt stylized Christ which pays tribute to all the world’s cultures… the simplicity of the work also has something sensual.”
Newspaper accounts of the building’s cost vary between 85 to 99 millions dollars. The church was supposed to open May 13 th, but numerous delays prevented its opening until October.
The ecumenical intent of the building appears obvious. Cardinal Saraiva Martins said on Portuguese television that the new basilica is Fatima for the 21st Century and a sign of inculturation, putting the Church right in the middle of modern culture.
Bishop Antonio Marto, the Bishop of Lierra-Fatima, said in mid-2006 that the new basilica at Fatima will not be an ecumenical temple, but qualified that the identity of Fatima allows space for universal and interreligious dialogue.
In other words, the church at Fatima will not be an interreligious shrine, but a Catholic shrine where ecumenical activity occasionally occurs.
The structure of the new building speaks the voice of ecumenism. The 1993 Directory for the Application of the Principle and Norms of Ecumenism, quoted many times in CFN, encourages numerous interreligious activities that have always been condemned by the Church as grave sins against the Faith.
One of the proposals in this Directory is to construct a single church to be owned and used by Catholics and non-Catholics [#138]. In these ecumenical churches, the Blessed Sacrament should be placed in a separate room so as not to offend the sensibilities of non-believers [#139]
Likewise, Cardinal Kasper’s newly-released booklet, Handbook for Spiritual Ecumenism, recommends various ways that the proposals of the Ecumenical Directory be put into practice.
The Cardinal makes special mention of how Marian shrines must become ecumenical: Pay due attention, in national and international sanctuaries dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to the presence and pastoral needs of those visitors who belong to other Churches and Ecclesial communities by making available appropriate prayers or meditations, along with the use of appropriate liturgical signs and symbols. (pp. 34-35).
The new basilica of Fatima seems to have followed the Ecumenical Directory in the absence of a public tabernacle or sanctuary lamp, and in keeping the Blessed Sacrament in a remote area impossible to find. There can be no doubt that the basilica would have been designed according to the ecumenical imperatives of Cardinal Kasper, since the Cardinal’s Handbook was result of proceedings from a 2003 Plenary Session at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The points in his booklet would be known to Church officials for many years.
Along the same lines, the Fourth European Conference of Directors of Pilgrimages and Rectors was held in September 2004 at the Marian Shrine in Kevelear, Germany. The conference was promoted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. The meeting’s purpose was to advance the practice of ecumenism in Catholics shrines and pilgrimages throughout Europe (see CFN, Sept, 2006).
Fatima Rector Luciano Guerra spoke at the Kevelear conference, which was attended by Catholics, Schismatic Orthodox, Anglicans and Evangelical Protestants. Here, Guerra boasted of his ecumenical endeavors at Fatima.
Every year for the last four years, said Guerra, we received the visit of a group of Anglican priests normally accompanied by a bishop. They stay several days in Fatima, taking part in some of the celebrations and even in the Eucharist, but without concelebrating or communicating [receiving communion]. The Shrine makes available to them the interior chapels of the lodging houses, so that they may celebrate their own rites. Already this year  the Anglican Archdeaconry of Gibraltar held its Synod in one of the lodging houses of the Shrine.
Rector Guerra, being thoroughly ecumenical, and no doubt being aware of Cardinal Kasper’s push to open Marian Shrines to the ecumenical dimension, would have designed the new church to serve the new interfaith orientation rather than the Catholic Faith of all time.
Thus it is clear the new basilica at Fatima is a monument to the diabolic disorientation of neo-modernism and ecumenism. This explains why there is nothing Catholic about its construction. This explains why there is nothing holy in its appearance. This explains why the average Catholic who still has the sensus fidei gapes at the building as something from another planet.
Even the poor Portuguese people are perplexed, despite their humble temperament to keep their misgivings to themselves. One woman I spoke with at Fatima told me she went around asking Portuguese pilgrims what they thought of the new building. Each of them replied with a shrug of the shoulders, hardly a 90-million-dollar response.