“Do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)
The Japanese bishops conference had not given it’s approval to the apparition when asked by the local bishop to do so, and had discouraged pilgrimages to the convent. However, the original enthusiastic approval by the late Bishop Ito has not been negated by the subsequent bishop. The generally accepted protocol in the Church is for the decision to approve an apparition, barring intervention from Rome, initially rests with the diocesan bishop.
Donal Anthony Foley, probably the wisest voice in matters of apparition discernment, has raised a number of questions about Akita, though none of which definitively undermines its authenticity. That a Vatican spokesman stated that no decision has been made regarding the apparition does not negate the bishop’s approval. Confusion over a comment by Cardinal Ratzinger doesn’t either. So we have an approved apparition, but with some reservations being made regarding its authenticity.
Since the messages are prophetic in nature, I think we must look at all the evidence and draw our own conclusion. There was a series of miracles that took place, this we have much evidence for. The events resulted in conversions and reversions to the Catholic faith. Bishop Ito made every effort to investigate Sister Sasagawa’s claims before he made his decision. I simply don’t see a single valid reason to call this approved apparition “controverted”.
Foley had made an interesting comment that perhaps today proves the truth of the apparition. I’m not sure when he wrote this, but it was at least few years ago and refers to the third message:
“…It also states that:’The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops.’ This type of message is more characteristic of the contents of unapproved visions than approved ones.”
The ultimate judge of whether a prophecy is authentic is whether it comes to pass. The verbal contention (screaming) between the bishops and cardinals at last October’s Synod on the Family was unprecedented in modern Church history. It continues in the press almost daily as we progress to the next synod in October of this year. I wonder if Foley remembers writing that comment. He’s right that this particular message is not common to other approved visions or other prophecies, including Hildegard’s vision of the last days. The fact that this unique prediction has been realized should convince skeptics to re-read the three messages of Our Lady of Akita with greater appreciation for this still-approved Marian apparition.