The Christian Palmarian Church of the Carmelites of the Holy Face (Spanish: Iglesia Cristiana Palmariana de los Carmelitas de la Santa Faz), also called the Palmarian Christian Church (Spanish: Iglesia Cristiana Palmariana), the Palmarian Church, or the Palmarian Catholic Church, is an independent Traditionalist Catholic denomination with an episcopal see in El Palmar de Troya, Spain, founded in 1978 by Clemente Domínguez y Gómez (known as Pope Gregory XVII). The church does not recognize any popes after Paul VI as Catholic, and holds that the Palmarian Christian Church has continued the papacy.
The church regards Pope Paul VI, whom they revere as a martyr, and his predecessors as true popes, but hold, on the grounds of claimed apparitions, that the Pope of Rome is excommunicated and that the position of the Holy See has, since 1978, been transferred to their See of El Palmar de Troya.
The current pope is Joseph Odermatt, known as Pope Peter III.
Scholars, journalists and former followers almost universally describe the organization as a cult. Members are expected not to watch any films or television, vote or read newspapers. They also engage in heavy shunning of former members and are not allowed to talk to people unrelated to the Palmarian Christian Church.
Four Spanish schoolgirls (only known as Ana, Josefa, Rafaela, and Ana María) stated they saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary by a little tree on a piece of farmland called La Alcaparrosa near Palmar de Troya. The apparition became known as Our Lady of Palmar. Many people came to witness the supposed apparitions, and a number of miracles similar to those alleged to have happened at Fátima, Garabandal and Međugorje were said to have occurred. The seers had many supporters, including priests. Several other people reported visions at the site, including Clemente Domínguez y Gómez, an office clerk from Seville. He gradually became the "principal seer" in 1968.The original seers' visions were dismissed by the local bishop. They returned to their normal lives and have allegedly said they wished only to forget the past and to have no connection with the Palmarian Church. Domínguez claimed that the Virgin Mary had given him instructions to rid the Catholic Church of "heresy and progressivism", and of Communism.
In 1975, Domínguez formed a new religious order, the Order of Carmelites of the Holy Face, which claimed to be "faithful to the holy Pope Paul VI". It claimed that Paul VI was detained in the Vatican by evil conspiring cardinals. The order was initially run by laymen, but supported sacramentally by priests from Spain, Portugal, and the United States.
Consecration of bishops
To be guaranteed access to the sacraments, Domínguez's group needed its own bishops. Domínguez wrote a letter to Marcel Lefebvre and asked him to consecrate him, but Lefebvre declined the offer and told them to contact a traditionally minded Vietnamese bishop instead. In 1976, Swiss priest Maurice Revaz (who had taught canon law at the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) seminary in Ecône) persuaded the elderly Vietnamese Archbishop Ngô Đình Thục of the authenticity of the apparitions. Thục was chosen because he was a papal legate. Accepting the mystical message of the seer-mystics, the archbishop believed that he was called by the Virgin Mary to raise two of the order's members, Clemente Domínguez and a lawyer named Manuel Corral and three of the priests associated with the group to the rank of bishop. Thục also ordained some laymen to the priesthood. Clemente Dominguez had a "vision" while Archbishop Thục was present. In the vision, Clemente proceeded to take the child Jesus, who had apparently appeared in the vision and placed him in the archbishop's arms. This seems to have convinced Thục of the authenticity of the apparitions and confirmed his decision to ordain and consecrate in El Palmar de Troya in 1976.
Archbishop Thục acted without obtaining the mandatory authorisation from the Holy See, and he and the five men he consecrated as bishops were subsequently excommunicated by Paul VI. Thục subsequently cut his ties with the group and was reconciled with the Catholic Church.
Gregory XVII: Claim to the papacy
Following the death of Paul VI in 1978, Domínguez claimed that he had been mystically crowned pope by Jesus Christ in a vision. This reported vision took place in Santa Fe de Bogotá in Colombia, on the 6th of August 1978. He took the papal name Gregory XVII, and appointed his own cardinals. By these actions, the Carmelites of the Holy Face evolved into the Palmarian Christian Church. Some Catholics previously associated with the Carmelites left the group as a result.
The popes of the Palmarian Church do not claim to be the titular bishop of Rome. Rather, they claim that Christ transferred the position of Patriarch of the West and Supreme Pontiff to the new episcopal see of El Palmar de Troya. This is a departure from traditional Catholic doctrine, which identifies the papacy with the bishop of Rome. Catholic teaching also holds that personal revelations are not binding on the Church as a whole.
In his capacity as pope, Domínguez (Pope Gregory XVII) called the Catholic Church a false church and declared Pope John Paul II excommunicated. Gregory XVII canonized the explorer Christopher Columbus, General Francisco Franco and founder of Opus Dei Josemaría Escrivá; and declared Paul VI a martyr and saint in the Palmarian Christian faith. He survived a car accident, in which he lost his sight in both eyes, and remained pope.
Domínguez died in March 2005, according to Palmarian sources, supposedly experiencing a vision during an Easter Liturgy. His successor as pope immediately elevated Domínguez to be Pope Saint Gregory XVII the Very Great. Manuel Alonso Corral, named in 2000 by Domínguez as his successor, succeeded him as Peter II. There was no Palmarian conclave for this election.
Peter II made no claims to visions but stated that the Antichrist was born in the year 2000. Palmarian doctrine indicates that the Antichrist will mock Christ and imitate him by making a public appearance at age of 12, i.e. c. 2012, and begin his public life in 2030, when he is 30 years old.
Peter II died on July 15, 2011, after a long illness. After his death, he was immediately canonized by his successor, Gregory XVIII, and proclaimed Doctor of the Palmarian Church.
Peter II was succeeded in 2011 by his Secretary of State, Ginés Jesús Hernández, who took the name Gregory XVIII. He abdicated the papacy on April 22, 2016. Earlier known as a hardliner, making several rules much stricter, towards the end of his papacy, he abolished some of them. For example, he allowed Palmarians to smoke, to go to the cinema (although immoral and pornographic films were still banned) and to talk to non-Palmarian people (as long as they had never been part of the Church). Hernández abdicated from his papacy on 22 April 2016 to marry Nieves Trivedi (a Palmarian nun), and was succeeded on 23 April 2016 by Odermatt who took Peter III as his papal name. Following his abdication, Hernández told El País that the Palmarian Christian Church "was all a hoax from the beginning" to profit from believers and supporters of the alleged apparitions of Our Lady of Palmar, and in 2020 expressed regret over not dissolving the church when he was pope. His successor, Pope Peter III, published an encyclical letter in response, in which he accused Hernández of discrediting his former Church in his interview and of stealing two million euros from the Palmarian Catholic Church, alongside several goods (including a BMW X6): he subsequently declared him an apostate, excommunicated him and declared all of his acts to be null and void. Hernández denies the charges of stealing. He and his wife subsequently reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church.
After the abdication of Gregory XVIII, a new pope was elected in the Palmarian Church on April 23, 2016. As expected it was Swiss Joseph Odermatt, who was previously Gregory XVIII's Secretary of State. Odermatt adopted the papal name Peter III. Peter III was crowned on July 16, 2016, Solemnity of Our Crowned Mother of Palmar. Unlike his predecessor, Odermatt put more emphasis on Liturgy and daily cult rather than on the management of the church. Peter III appointed as his Secretary of State and his successor father Benjamin Maria, while father Abram Maria was appointed as vice-Secretary of State (the third highest charge in the Church).
Odermatt disbanded the papal guard corps instituted by his predecessor, deeming it unnecessary for his security. In 2018 he travelled to the United States for the first time.During his office, the Palmarian Christian Church established an online presence for the first time, opening a website and accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and a channel on YouTube.
In a sermon delivered in August 2011, Gregory XVIII said that the Palmarian Church had between 1,000 and 1,500 members, but in the following years many were excommunicated. In 2015 the number of bishops was probably down to about 30 and the number of nuns were around 30. According to Magnus Lundberg, "except for at the very beginning, most new members were children of Palmarian couples and not people coming from outside". As of 2015, 32 bishops remained out of 192 men who were consecrated as bishops between 1976 and 2015, according to Lundberg.: 27 Since 1983 the church has drastically reformed its rites and its liturgy, which previously had been styled in the Tridentine form. The Palmarian liturgy was reduced to almost solely the Eucharistic words of consecration. The See of El Palmar de Troya has also declared the Real Presence of the Virgin Mary in the sacred host and the bodily assumption into heaven of St. Joseph to be dogmas of the Catholic faith. By 2000, they had their own Palmarian version of the Bible, revised by Domínguez on claimed prophetic authority and a product of the Second Palmarian Council, also known as the Palmarian synod. For these reasons and their strict rules allowing no communication with people outside of the faith, other Catholics consider the Palmarian Church to be heretical and a cult.
The Archidonian Palmarian group (Archidona, Malaga, Spain) formed in 2000 was due to the expulsion of 16 cardinals and five nuns. They were expelled by Domínguez for diverse reasons. The predominant reason for the expulsions was due to Domínguez's belief that there was "a church within a church" planning to overthrow or assassinate him. The group in Archidona has since almost disbanded and there remains four or five. They presently call themselves "independent" Palmarian priests. They believe that the see of Peter is once again vacant.
During the papacy of Pope Peter III, the church established an online presence for the first time, opening a website and accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and a channel on YouTube.In January 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain, it was reported that there were 70 positives, including 4 deaths, within the church premises. The rate of COVID-19 cases in El Palmar was 3,713 cases/100,000 inhabitants, triggering confinement measures for the town in spite of the reduced contact between the church members and the rest of the town. In September 2021, the Palmarian Catholic Church introduced new rules that made the wearing of anti-Covid masks compulsory to attend Mass.
From 1978 to 2001, the Palmarian Catholic Church used the Latin translation of the Bible that was in use in the Roman Catholic Church before the Second Vatican Council; such translation was produced by Church Father Jerome in the 4th century AD under commission of Pope Damasus I and is commonly known as Vulgate.
However, as explained by professor Magnus Lundberg (Uppsala University), in 1997 Clemente Domínguez claimed that Prophet Elijah had appeared to him, claiming that the current Bible is "filled with errors that had been introduced by judeo-masonic groups through the centuries" and that it was his mission to revise it. Therefore, after 4 years of work, the Holy Palmarian Bible was published in five volumes in 2001, followed by a smaller two-volumes versions and an illustrated versions for children. According to Lundberg, the changes were "dramatic": entire parts of the bibilical books were omitted and numerous parts are "almost unrecognizable due to the allegorical and apocalyptical interpretations, which Gregory [i.e. Clemente Domínguez] claimed reflected the original intentions of the divine author. All of this makes the work very different from the traditional Bibles, both in structure and content" states Lundberg.The Bible now used by the Palmarian Christian Church is not available in public libraries and is not available online. However, in 2018 Professor Lundberg scanned one of the English versions and later publishing it on his blog.
From 1978 to 1983, Palmarian priests celebrated Mass according to the Roman Catholic Tridentine Rite. However, in these years Clemente Domínguez frequently deleted some parts or inserted new ones in the standard Ordo Missae, mingling traditional Roman Catholic elements with original Palmarian ones. A more drastic change occurred in 1983, when Domínguez completely reformed the liturgical texts and established the new Palmarian Ordo Missae, which was much briefer, as it was reduced to three essential moments: the first one is the offertory, when the Palmarian priests present the host in the paten and the wine in the chalice; the second one is the consecration when the priest pronounces the words ("Hoc est Corpus meum" and "Hic est Sanguis meus"); the third one is communion. As a Palmarian Mass is very brief (it lasts no more than five minutes), Palmarian priests do not celebrate single Masses, but turns of Masses, generally twelve an hour. The communion takes place on only one of these celebrations. Only Palmarian members can receive communion. The Communion ritual firstly sees an act of contrition in order to have the priet's own sins forgiven; then the priest lifts and shows the consecrated host saying "Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi"; the faithful reply "Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea". Finally, they kneel down and they receive communion directly on their tongue (only priests can touch with their own hands the consecrated host). Before delivering the host, the priest makes a sign of the cross with it, has the faithful kiss it and communicates himself. The Palmarian Order of Mass is based on the 1962 Roman Missal issued by Pope John XXIII.
On religious feasts and solemnities (such as Easter, Christmas, Holy Mary Mother of God, Saint Joseph, Our Crowned Mother of El Palmar), the turns of Masses are preceded and followed by "processions" where the Pope sits on his "pontifical chair", and liturgical celebrations are held at the main altar, with a great number of assistants. Such celebrations are called "Pontifical Masses", and they may also see a Pope's speech about general life of the church, canonizations and issuing dogmas. However, both on common and on Pontifical Masses, con-celebrating was banned, as it would reduce the number of Masses that each cleric should read every day. So, every Mass is celebrated by one priest, helped by two assisting deacons.
As common in most traditionalist Catholic environments, the Palmarian Church displays a number of traditional devotions. The most important one is the Holy Penitential Rosary. Every Palmarian faithful has the obligation of praying the Penitential Rosary everyday; lay people generally pray it during the celebration of the turns of Masses inside the Palmarian Basilica. The prayer starts with a sign of the cross and an Act of Contrition. Then, the essential structure of the Penitential Rosary consists in praying five complete Our Fathers; each "complete Our Father" corresponds to ten Our Father, ten Hail Mary, ten Glory to the Father and ten "Hail Mary Most Pure, conceived without sin" (a typical Palmarian prayer also used as a greeting between people). At the end of each complete Our Father, faithful should say "Show us, Lord, thy face, and we shall be saved", "Our Crowned Mother of Palmar, be our save". After the five complete Our Fathers, the Rosary concludes with another complete Our Father for the intentions of the Pontiff in order to obtain the indulgences granted by the Holy Penitential Rosary.
A second common Palmarian devotion is the Way of the Cross (Latin Via Crucis) through which faithful can recall the Passion of Jesus Christ, his carrying of the cross, his crucifixion and his death. This prayer is usually practiced by Palmarians during Lent, Holy Week and on Fridays.
Moreover, on great feasts, such as on the feast of Our Crowned Mother of El Palmar, of Saint Joseph, of Most Holy Mary Mother of God and along the whole Holy Week, Palmarians hold solemn processions outside the Basilica, with the presence of the pasos, which are big carts carrying statues of Christ, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Saint Joseph, of Saint Teresa de Avila and of many Saints more. Another type of procession is the eucharistical procession, held every day around the Basilica and concluded inside the church, with the solemn eucharistic blessing.
Saints canonized by the Palmarian Catholic Church include Christopher Columbus, Galileo Galilei, Francisco Franco, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, José Calvo Sotelo, Josemaría Escrivá, Luis Carrero Blanco, Pelagius of Asturias, and 300,000 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.An internet hoax claiming that the Palmarians had canonised Adolf Hitler originated on a fabricated Palmarian blogging site and was disseminated through Wikipedia and other media; the Palmarian Catholic Church has denied the claim. According to the religious studies scholar Magnus Lundberg, the leadership of the Palmarian Catholic Church treat the continued spread of the hoax as evidence that the media and the internet have been coopted by enemies of the church.
Palmarian Christians generally accept the conventional succession of Catholic popes up to Paul VI (r. 1963–1978) but reject the conventional succession after him. As of 2020, none of Gregory XVII's successors have been elected by a Palmarian conclave, but were appointed as successors by the previous pope.
Like the Roman Pontiff, the Palmarian Pope has a number of official titles, as highest defender of faith and orthodoxy:
Vicar of Christ
Successor of Saint Peter
Patriarch of Palmar de Troya
Herald of the Lord God of the hosts
Good shepherd of souls
Aflame with the zeal of Elias
Defender of the rights of God and Church.Beside all such titles, the Palmarian pope can choose his own pontifical motto. For example, current Pope Peter III's motto is De Gloria Ecclesiæ (meaning "On the Glory of the Church").
The church's walled compound, near the village of El Palmar de Troya, surrounds the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Crowned Mother of Palmar which contains the Palmarian popes' cathedra and at least 15 altars.: 4, 32–33, 36
Sergio María Hernández left his position as Pope Gregory XVIII in 2016 to marry a woman (who was a Palmarian nun) and told El País that the Palmarian Catholic Church "was all a hoax from the beginning" to profit from believers and supporters of the alleged apparitions of Our Lady of Palmar. In response, the new Pope Peter III published an encyclical letter, in which he accused Hernández of discrediting his former Church in his interview and of stealing two million euros from the Palmarian Catholic Church, alongside several goods (including a BMW X6): he subsequently declared him an apostate, excommunicated him and declared all of his acts to be null and void. Hernández denies the charges of stealing. He and his wife later both reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church.In 2020 Hernández was interviewed by El Confidencial: during the interview he accused the Palmarian Christian Church of possessing large quantities of cash money and even weapons in some hidden places of the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Crowned Mother of Palmar; he also regretted not disbanding the Church while he was in charge, but predicted that it would soon collapse on its own.