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Updated: August 16, 1988 05:00 PM GMT
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Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has approved the veracity of the messages of the Blessed Mother Mary at Akita, a northern Japanese city, according to information disclosed in mid-August.

Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican´s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, gave approval June 20 when he met with retired Bishop John Shojiro Ito of Niigata; Father Masayuki Shirieda, undersecretary of the Vatican´s Secretariat for Non-Christians; and Mutsuo Fukushima, a Kyodo News Service reporter and executive secretary of the Japanese Catholic Journalist Club.

Fukushima, who disclosed the information, accompanied Bishop Ito to Rome.

Since Jan. 4, 1975, about 500 Christians and non-Christians reported they saw the statue shed tears -- 101 such reports in six years and eight months.

The eye-witnesses include Mayor Keiji Takada of Akita, who is a Buddhist.

Cardinal Ratzinger told Bishop Ito that he has no objections to a pastoral letter dated April 22, 1984, before the bishop´s retirement.

The letter, which Bishop Ito said he wrote after 10 years of thorough investigation, officially recognizes and proclaims the authenticity of the Blessed Mother´s messages and related mysterious events at Akita.

Before the June meeting, Cardinal Ratzinger studied English and French translations of the pastoral letter, along with records, documents and medical certificates verifying miraculous physical healings over the past six years.

During the nearly one-hour meeting, the cardinal also viewed color photos of Sister Agnes Sasagawa, recipient of the Marian messages, as well as photos of the weeping statue, which is located in the convent of Sister Sasagawa´s convent, the Institute of the Servants of the Eucharist.

In 1973, Sister Sasagawa reported to Bishop Ito that the Blessed Mother called for fervent prayers for the pope, bishops and priests, along with other messages which Mary instructed her to transmit to the bishop. The messages called for repentance, penance, prayers and courageous acts of sacrifice.

The sister also reported the Blessed Mother as saying, "Many people in this world grieve the Lord. I desire souls to console Him."

According to Fukushima, Cardinal Ratzinger asked Bishop Ito whether many pilgrims still visit the Catholic convent in Akita.

Bishop Ito replied that visitors to Akita include not only many Japanese but also people from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United States.

Cardinal Ratzinger commented that the fact that so many pilgrims still travel to Akita to receive God´s blessings is important, Fukushima said.

The cardinal asked Bishop Ito to keep sending him reports about miracles, the spiritual progress of pilgrims, conversions and other developments.

Bishop Ito later said of his meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger, "The outcome was a great grace from God. It´s mysterious. I had feared that the cardinal might treat (reports of Mary´s apparations at Akita) coldly."

Bishop Ito went on to France and then to the U.S. where he appeared July 19 on a TV interview program with Mother Angelica of the Eternal Word Television Network, a Catholic-run network based in the southern state of Alabama.

The satellite broadcast of the live interview included color representations of the statue -- photos including material produced by Tokyo´s Channel 12, which in December 1973 videotaped the statue showing what appears to be tears.


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