Irish Prelate: "House of Prayer" Not OK'd by Church

Achill Center Founded by Woman Who Claims to Hear Virgin Mary

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TUAM, Ireland, MARCH 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Tuam clarified that the "House of Prayer," founded by a woman who claims to have been visited by the Virgin Mary, does not have Church approval.

Archbishop Michael Neary released a public statement last week clarifying the Church's stance on the Achill Island prayer house, founded by Christina Gallagher, with other sites in the United States and Mexico.

Archbishop Neary explained the situation of the House of Prayer, saying that since 1996, he had established a diocesan commission to "investigate certain claims regarding and emanating from this work."

Gallagher claims to receive regular messages from Our Lady and to have the stigmata.

In 1997, the archbishop noted, "acting on foot of a report from the commission, I issued a lengthy public statement to the effect, in essence, that no evidence of supernatural phenomena had been observed but that the persons involved gave every evidence of good faith. Arising from that, I proposed a basic canonical structure that would gradually integrate the work of the house into the life of Achill Parish and the archdiocese."

However, Archbishop Neary stated: "While this was then attempted by the archdiocese, I became increasingly perturbed by an apparent absence of enthusiasm on the parts of Mrs. Gallagher and her associates.

"The relationship deteriorated to the extent that Mrs. Gallagher, in July 1998, closed the House of Prayer at Achill, expressing to the media at the time a sense of having been harshly treated by the archdiocese. In order to clarify the issue for the faithful I issued another statement, regretting the development and expressing grave misgivings as to the wisdom with which Mrs. Gallagher had been advised and had acted in the matter."

The 61-year-old prelate clarified that diocesan efforts to integrate the work ended in 1998, when Gallagher closed the house.

"Celebration of the sacraments and reservation of the Blessed Sacrament at the House of Prayer are not permitted," he continued. "Any work carried on since then has been entirely of a private nature and has no Church approval whatever. Neither, for reasons given above, does such work enjoy the confidence of the diocesan authorities. Nothing has been brought to my attention to indicate that I should change from this position in the future. Over the years since then, the Tuam Diocesan Office has clearly and consistently replied to enquiries in respect of this work, which Mrs. Gallagher recommenced."

"I respect the faith and devotion of many people who have been impressed by this work in the past, some of whom have expressed their sadness at my stance," the archbishop acknowledged. But, he concluded, "The House of Prayer has no Church approval and the work does not enjoy the confidence of the diocesan authorities."