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Many of our readers may not be familiar with an apparition and shrine of Our Lady in Rome. The following article written by J.P. was published in the "Voice of Padre Pio" Vol. XVII, No. 11. It is a beautiful account of Our Lady converting one of Her enemies on April 12, 1947 not far from where St. Paul was beheaded 1900 years ago.
Today there is a small shrine erected in honor of Our Lady's apparition there. This shrine is recognized by the Vicarate of Rome and the Cardinal Vicar of Rome. It is easily accessible to pilgrims. Our Pilgrimage to Rome visits the apparition site also.
Bruno Cornacchiola, a trolley conductor was born in a poor area of Rome in 1913. He grew upon the streets on the outskirts of the city and is said to have been a "champion of dirty language and a first class bully. His contacts with the criminal world were numerous." He married in 1936, but soon after went to fight in the Spanish Civil War on the Communist side. He returned to Rome in 1939 just as the Second World War was beginning.
Totally ignorant of the Faith, he was noted for his propagandistic attacks on the Catholic Church, the Pope and Marian dogmas. He stayed active in left-wing groups. He dreamed of killing Pope Pius XII and actually bought a dagger to accomplish the act.
One Sunday afternoon (April 12, 1947) he went with his three children to the woods in front of the famous Three Fountains Basilica, which marks the place where St. Paul the Apostle was beheaded. As the children played ball he sat to the side and worked on a speech against the Blessed Mother. The children lost the ball, but it was quickly found. They lost it a second time and this time called to their father to come and help them find it. As he approached where the children were, he found them suddenly kneeling down before a small natural cave. His first reaction was one of fear, thinking something diabolical was taking place. As Bruno looked into the cave the figure of a beautiful lady sparkled out of the darkness. Taking his courage in hand he asked Her who She was.
She said She was "The Virgin of Revelation" (referring to the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse, chapter 12 verse 1). She held a copy of Scripture in Her hands and was gowned in a white dress which reached to Her bare feet, a rose sash girded Her waist and a green mantle covered Her entire body from top to bottom.
On the ground there lay a black cloth and a broken cross. She was 5 feet, 5 inches tall and had an olive complexion with black hair. Her face was sad. She explained to Bruno and the children that Her incorrupt body had been taken to Heaven by Her Divine Son and His angels, when at the moment of Her death She fell asleep.
Her message was simple and identical to the message She has given in the great cycle of Marian apparitions in the last 150 years. She insisted on prayer, especially the Rosary, for sinners, non-believers and for the unity of Christians. She foretold that miracles would be worked through the soil of the small cave. To Bruno she foretold severe trials and persecutions, urged him to prudence and faith and entrusted him with a secret message for the Pope, which he transmitted to the Vatican on May 6, 1947. She also asked Bruno to re-enter the Catholic Church, which he had left for Protestantism and She told him that every Hail Mary recited with faith is a golden arrow reaching the Heart of Jesus.
She had spoken to them for about an hour and a quarter. At the end, the Blessed Virgin took a few steps forward, bowed and slowly disappeared. The grotto which had stunk from the refuse thrown into it was filled with a sweet odor, which increased in strength towards the very place where She had stood.
Bruno and the children cleaned the grotto as best they could and he chiselled the date of the apparition with his house key on the spot where the Virgin had stood.
The rest is history. Bruno's conversion took place immediately and he eventually gifted Pope Pius XII with the dagger he was to kill him with. She appeared to him another three times. Word spread and the wooded area once known as a "brothel" on the outskirts of Rome became a site of pilgrimage to the Virgin Mother of God.