JANUARY 12, 2013
A Divided Message: Spirituality: To her followers worldwide,
is a faithful purveyor of communications from Jesus and Mary. But theologians question credibility.
By Larry B. Stammer, Los Angeles Times religion writer, April 29, 1995
First she began hearing messages from her angel. Then, miraculously, she said, God spoke to her. Soon she was speaking directly with Jesus and Mary as well.
Now, for 10 years, she has been speaking to believers throughout the world about what she says are her encounters with the holy, as she did last weekend before a crowd estimated at 4,000 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
She is Vassula Ryden, a 53-year-old Greek mother of two, who lives in Switzerland and belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church.
To her followers, Vassula — as she is called — is God’s alter ego and faithful purveyor of messages from on high to repent, love God, and unify the churches. To skeptics, including a number of Roman Catholic bishops and theologians, she is a former tennis player who takes in the well-meaning and those of simple faith — and sometimes snookers a bishop here and there into allowing her to speak in his cathedral, as she did in 1993 in Sacramento.
Whatever the case, her popularity on the lecture circuit comes at a time when many believe there is a growing search for spirituality. Her appeal seems to be strongest among Roman Catholics who are enthralled by reports of apparitions of the Virgin Mary, particularly reported appearances of Mary at Medjugorje in the war-torn former Yugoslavia.
For example, the audience sat in awe as Vassula told the crowd of the day she said she was visited by Jesus and Mary.
“He said to me, ‘Can you discern who is with me?’ I said . . . ‘It is your mother who is with you!’ And he turned around and he said, ‘Your mother, too.'”
She told how she rode on a bus with Jesus, and the time he hid his face from her because he didn’t want her to see that he was sad.
Once, she said, Jesus stood and watched silently as she ate ravenously, because she was hungry. “Finally,” she said, “he asked, ‘Is it good?'” The audience broke into laughter. “And I said, ‘Yes, Jesus. Thank you.’ There was nothing wrong, so I continued eating. After awhile he said, ‘Don’t you want me to bless it?'”
At other times, the messages she said she received closely follow biblical accounts of Jesus’ sayings or the writings of the Apostle Paul. Her messages are filled with unattributed biblical quotations and allusions to biblical accounts. But in an interview, she said she was ignorant of such things and that it was God who told her what to say.
Indeed, this self-described “wretched” woman said she has become so unified with God and Jesus that when she writes down their messages her handwriting changes so that it no longer is recognizable as hers, but becomes the distinct penmanship of the author of creation himself.
Sharing the podium with her that day was Matthew Kelly, a 21-year-old Australian who dropped out of college while majoring in marketing to embark on a worldwide speaking tour after he, too, said he began receiving direct messages from God.
Like Vassula, Kelly has published the messages in books and on tapes which are sold during their appearances. Both said that only their travel expenses are paid and that they do not profit from the sales of their books and tapes.
As she spoke to the crowd, Vassula stood close to a portrait she had painted of Jesus. The resemblance between her rendition of Jesus and her own features is striking–it is almost a self-portrait, except that she has no beard.
Critics like Father Brian Harrison, chairman of the department of theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, said that aside from major doctrinal errors, what bothers him about her writings are the changes Vassula makes in later editions of her books after someone points out poor English grammar or contradictions.
In a telephone interview, Harrison asked — as have others — that if the messages are authentically from God to begin with, how dare she change them later? The other question, of course, is if a perfect God speaks perfect English, is it possible the words are not his, but hers?
Vassula has an explanation. In an interview, she said God gave her permission to make the changes, even going so far as to suggest deleting a paragraph here or a saying there. She said it is possible for a perfect God to regret something he said, just as he regretted creating a race that would fall from grace, as he did in the Book of Genesis.
All of this is too much for some, among them Father Gregory Coiro, spokesman for Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles. “My biggest problem with Vassula is that she’s not Catholic and she calls the Catholic Church apostate and yet she reaches out to Catholics and peddles her wares, including her incipient writings,” Coiro said. “People want to have a supernatural experience or be close to someone claiming to have a supernatural experience,” he said. “I think that’s why you have reports of visions and locutions. I think it shows a real spiritual hunger. But what people need is authenticity.”
Harrison in Puerto Rico sent Mahony a letter urging him to discourage Catholics from attending Vassula’s conference. He said Mahony thanked him and forwarded the warning to all auxiliary bishops in Los Angeles.
But the Roman Catholic archdiocese neither discouraged nor encouraged attendance, Coiro said. Further, Bishop John Chedid of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon — an Eastern rite Catholic Church that recognizes Pope John Paul II as head — celebrated Mass at the meeting.
Chedid’s chancellor, Father Gregory Mansour, said Chedid’s appearance should not be construed as an endorsement of Vassula. Despite the scoffers, there are those who say they do believe, among them Beverly Hills surgeon Antoine Mansour and his wife, Claire, who sponsored the convention center program and hosted Vassula and Kelly at their homes. The Mansours are not related to Father Gregory Mansour.
“In today’s world,” Antoine Mansour told the audience, “many say that prophecy belongs only to the past. But Jesus himself and his Apostle Paul have told us that prophecy is a gift to his people inherent through the Holy Spirit.”
L.A. Cathedral Disinvites Christian Unity Event
By Larry B. Stammer, Los Angeles Times religion writer, January 10, 2006
Pastor decides not to allow conference after realizing the role of a self-proclaimed mystic.
The Roman Catholic cathedral of Los Angeles on Monday rescinded its invitation to hold a Christian unity conference later this month after concluding that the principal speaker was to be a controversial self-proclaimed mystic who claimed to speak directly with God, Jesus and Mary.
In a letter to the sponsors, Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, pastor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, said that what had been represented by sponsors as a Christian unity conference had turned out to be largely a forum for Vassula Ryden, a Greek Orthodox laywoman who has attracted worldwide attention with her reports of sacred conversations.
At the same time, a leading Greek Orthodox priest said Monday he previously had also pulled out of the Jan. 28 conference. “Everything is very suspect. That’s all I’m going to say,” said the Very Rev. John Bakas, dean of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles.
A publicist for the conference said a second Greek Orthodox priest, from Brooklyn, had also decided not to attend.
Kostelnik said the decision to withdraw the cathedral’s invitation to play host to the conference was “final and not subject to change.” He said that the meeting was turning into something different than originally proposed. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles, had earlier agreed to offer welcoming remarks at the conference but now approved the withdrawal, Kostelnik said.
Kostelnik also returned a $3,000 donation to the cathedral and a $200 deposit for food service.
His letter, faxed to event sponsors Monday, caught them and their public relations firm by surprise. Claire Mansour, one of the sponsors, said she did not know if she and her husband, Antoine Y. Mansour, a general surgeon, could find another location to hold the conference in time. A full-page advertisement had already appeared in Tidings, the official newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Press releases were also distributed, saying that Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders would discuss “a new era of relations” among them.
“To me this is a betrayal by my church,” she said, referring to the withdrawal of the invitation by the Roman Catholic cathedral.
The meeting was to have been under the auspices of Ryden’s “True Life in God” organization and sponsored by the New Jerusalem Foundation, headed by the Mansours, who live in Beverly Hills. They have long supported Ryden and were associated with her Los Angeles appearance in 1995.
Antoine Mansour, in a handwritten Oct. 7 letter to Kostelnik, assured the pastor that Ryden’s writings “have been cleared by the Vatican.” But Kostelnik wrote Monday that Mansour’s assurance was “a serious misrepresentation of the current Vatican view of Ms. Ryden’s speeches and writings.” He said 1995 and 1996 Vatican statements cautioning Catholics against following Ryden remained “in full force.” “The 1995 statement cautioned Catholics that Ms. Ryden’s ‘revelations’ were merely the result of private meditations and contained doctrinal errors. It also advised bishops not to provide any opportunity in their dioceses for the dissemination of her ideas,” Kostelnik wrote. “In short, it is my belief and that of Cardinal Mahony that instead of a Christian unity conference where all participants have an equal opportunity to share and speak, what is now taking its place is a Vassula Ryden conference,” Kostelnik wrote.
During an appearance in Los Angeles in 1995, Ryden told an audience at the Los Angeles Convention Center that Jesus joked with her as she ate ravenously. “Finally,” she told the audience, “he asked, ‘Is it good?’ And I said, “Yes, Jesus. Thank you.’ There was nothing wrong, so I continued eating. After a while he said, ‘Don’t you want me to bless it?'”
Her current website, http://www.tlig.org, quotes Jesus as addressing her as “My Vassula” and tells her he was giving her his lamp to remove spiritual darkness from the world.
Critics have challenged the authenticity of Vassula’s supposed messages from God because she has changed some of them over time. Vassula, who was in Washington, D.C., and could not be reached for comment Monday, told The Times in a 1995 interview that God gave her permission to make such changes. She said it was possible for a perfect God to regret something he said, just as he regretted creating a race that would fall from grace.
Claire Mansour said Monday that the Los Angeles archdiocese “had all the information” about the conference for months, including Ryden’s appearance. “It was very clear. We didn’t hide anything,” she said, adding that she had expected a full house at the 3,000-seat cathedral. But she said God had the “final word” on the matter.
VASSULA RYDEN-PROBLEMS WITH ROME BUT WELCOME IN INDIA
VASSULA RYDEN-A CDF NOTIFICATION BISHOPS WARNINGS AND THEOLOGICAL CRITIQUES
VASSULA RYDEN-THE EUCHARIST AND INTERCOMMUNION ONE DATE AND PAN-CHRISTIAN ECUMENISM
VASSULA RYDEN-EXCOMMUNICATED OR NOT-A LAW SUIT
VASSULA RYDEN-THE REASONS FOR THE CHURCH’S NEGATIVE REACTION
VASSULA RYDEN-FR FRANCOIS MARIE DERMINE
VASSULA RYDEN-FR MITCH PACWA
VASSULA RYDEN-FR PETER JOSEPH
VASSULA RYDEN-FR BRIAN HARRISON
VASSULA RYDEN-FR RAY BLAKE
VASSULA RYDEN-MARIA LAURA PIO
VASSULA RYDEN-MARK WATERINCKX
VASSULA RYDEN-CARDINAL BASIL HUME
VASSULA RYDEN-A CRITIQUE-DIALOGUE CENTRE INTERNATIONAL
VASSULA RYDEN’S JESUS-INGERLISE PROVSTGAARD
VASSULA RYDEN-RICHARD SALBATO
VASSULA RYDEN-JOE NICKELL
VASSULA RYDEN-CAREY WINTERS
VASSULA RYDEN-CONSTANCE CUMBEY
VASSULA RYDEN-RONALD L CONTE
VASSULA RYDEN-AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN
VASSULA RYDEN-JOHN SANIDOPOULOS
VASSULA RYDEN-LAURENCE ENGLAND
VASSULA RYDEN-LAURETTE ELSBERRY
VASSULA RYDEN-RICHARD CHONAK
VASSULA RYDEN-TERRY NELSON
VASSULA RYDEN-CATHOLIC ANSWERS
VASSULA RYDEN-CATHOLIC DOORS
VASSULA RYDEN-BENEDICT TANG
VASSULA RYDEN-BRO IGNATIUS MARY
VASSULA RYDEN-CARRIE TOMKO
VASSULA RYDEN-INTERNATIONAL MARIAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE
VASSULA RYDEN-INVESTIGATE VASSULA
VASSULA RYDEN-SUSAN BRINKMANN
VASSULA RYDEN-TE DEUM
VASSULA RYDEN-DANIEL KLIMEK
VASSULA RYDEN-TONY-ALLEN CUCOLO
VASSULA RYDEN-ADUR VALLEY PARISH
VASSULA RYDEN-ASK A CATHOLIC
VASSULA RYDEN-ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
VASSULA RYDEN-STEVE HAYES
VASSULA RYDEN-RORATE CAELI
VASSULA RYDEN-SEMPER FI
VASSULA RYDEN-DON LATTIN
CDF, OCTOBER 6, 1995
VASSULA RYDEN-THE TLIG APOLOGISTS
Categories: False Mystics