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Women banned from meetings after Virgin Mary claim

September 14, 2000

Women banned from meetings after Virgin Mary claim



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


EMMITSBURG, Md. - A woman whose claims of seeing the Virgin Mary attract hundreds of people to this Frederick County town every Thursday has been banned from holding prayer meetings in the Catholic Church.

For the last seven years, up to 1,000 people a week have arrived by the busload to hear messages that Dr. Gianna Talone-Sullivan has said she received from Mary at St. Joseph's Church.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has found no basis for Talone-Sullivan's claims, spokesman Ray Kempisty said.

Elements of the messages, including predictions for the future and apocalyptic visions, contradict the teachings of the church, Kempisty said.

Information from a video released in May by and about Talone-Sullivan, titled "Unbridled Mercy," played a significant role in the finding, Kempisty said.

The church has asked that sales of the video be stopped, he said.

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Talone-Sullivan, a pharmacologist who lives in Carroll Valley, Pa., declined to respond beyond the release of a short statement:

"This is a gift. Be at peace. Continue to pray. God's hand is in all of this. Watch and see!"

The Archdiocese of Baltimore met with Talone-Sullivan on Friday to tell her about the decision, he said.

Until then, the church had remained neutral on the question of the visions. There was never a formal church investigation. The decision to ban the prayer meetings came after a review of the messages and video, Kempisty said.

Talone-Sullivan, 43, has said that Mary first came to her in 1988, when she was living in Scottsdale, Ariz.

She and her husband, Dr. Michael Sullivan, moved to Emmitsburg in 1993 after visiting the Grotto of Lourdes shrine near Mount St. Mary's College.

In 1994, the couple launched a mobile health clinic called Mission of Mercy based in Emmitsburg.

Since the decision, Kempisty said the Archdiocese has received many phone calls and e-mail messages from Talone-Sullivan's supporters.

"As you would expect, the ones who are disappointed are the ones that are most likely to provide feedback," he said.

Many want to know details about how her messages conflict with the church, but the church does not want to get into a lengthy debate, he said.

The prayer services at St. Joseph's are being stopped temporarily because they had "primarily become a platform for promoting Mrs. Sullivan's alleged apparitions in a setting which suggest Church approval of both their authenticity and theological content," he said.

They may be continued at a later date, without Talone-Sullivan's input. In general, the archdiocese encourages prayer groups, he said.

The pastor at St. Joseph's, the Rev. James Kiernan, referred all questions about the matter to Kempisty.

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