Death of Spain's controversial 'other' pope
19 April 2005, MADRID-While the world watches the Vatican, where cardinals met to elect the next pope, people in an obscure Spanish town are pondering their future after another 'pope' died just days before the pontiff.
19 April 2005
MADRID-While the world watches the Vatican, where cardinals met to elect the next pope, people in an obscure Spanish town are pondering their future after another 'pope' died just days before the pontiff.
The town is El Palmar de la Troya, in the southern province of Seville, and the 'pope' was a man who styled himself Gregory XVII.
He had 'excommunicated' John Paul II and the Spanish royal family, while making saints of the late dictator Francisco Franco and Christopher Columbus.
Gregory XVII was born as Clemente Dominguez in the provincial capital, Seville, in 1946.
According to the Spanish daily El Mundo, he suffered a troubled childhood and ran away from home several times, once aiming to become a monk.
In a police report on one of his flights from home, his parents said "the boy's mental faculties are disturbed."
Clemente might have spent his life in obscurity were it not for four girls, who one day in 1968 went out in the country near El Palmar to gather flowers.
In a repetition of a well-known Roman Catholic phenomenon, they returned with the breathtaking story that they had had a vision of the Virgin Mary.
The story spread like wildfire, the girls got muscled out in the shuffle and, as El Mundo says, "visionaries began popping up like mushrooms".
Enter Clemente Dominguez a year and a half later, having joined an ultra right-wing Spanish organisation and working in a religious order's hospital.
He quickly took over as the top visionary, and people began to flock to El Palmar to see him.
In 1970, then Seville Cardinal Jose Maria Bueno Monreal described the whole business as a "genuine (case) of mass hysteria of the superstitious sort".
Dominguez' movement was transformed into a religious order-the Carmelites of the Holy Face-and ultra-traditionalist Catholics began going to El Palmar.
In 1975, while on a fund-raising tour, Gregory was in an automobile accident and the great seer was blinded.
Influenced by the French priest Marcel Lefebvre, he was ordained priest and then bishop, in 1976, by Vietnamese Bishop Peter Martin Ngo-Din Thuc.
Gomez had a high-walled basilica built at Palmar de Troya and his order, estimated to include several hundred worshippers, was recognised as a religious association by Spanish authorities in 1988.
This did not go down well in Rome, and papal nuncio Luigi Dadaglio was quick to deliver an excommunication to Gregory from Pope Paul VI.
Unlike the late pontiff, who died with no worldly goods except a few personal possessions, Gregory XVII has left behind him a fortune estimated at nearly EUR 76 million.
The Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) says Gregory's "Catholic, Apostolic and Palmarian Church ... is probably the single largest organization bowing to the authority of an 'alternative' pope, with more than 1,000 followers in Spain and several hundreds more internationally."
Another estimate puts the worldwide figure as at least 1,500, with a large number of followers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Germany.
Gregory was accused of sexual immorality with several nuns of his order and that in 1997, he admitted his sins and asked for his forgiveness.
Most followers remained loyal to him and his close collaborator and hand-picked successor, former lawyer and "Thuc bishop" Manuel Alonso Corral.
CESNUR says that, at the end of 2000, 17 bishops with a couple of hundred followers left the Church, and formed a splinter movement known as "The Tribe."
But Gregory's loyalists were undaunted and crowned Corral as pope on 26 March under the name of Peter II, a name no Roman Catholic has ever presumed to use in deference to Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus and the first pope.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news